Associative Awareness Technique: Possible Relief for Chronic Conditions

Do you suffer from a chronic medical condition, such as Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Failed Surgery Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress, Depression and/or Anxiety and have tried a variety of treatment paths without success? Do you notice your pain, muscle tension or symptoms increase when you are experiencing stress? There is a new and innovative treatment technique that could help improve your function and restore enjoyments back into your life.

In the past, physical therapy primarily focused on the biomechanical aspects of the dysfunction to eliminate chronic pain and improve function. Though exercises are still used, Associative Awareness Technique™(AAT™) varies vastly from any type of physical therapy approach that you have experienced before.

AAT™ is a 6 step treatment regimen which targets all three levels of the brain which includes: 1) the brainstem, where automatic protective reflexes originate and control the level of  muscle tension in your body, 2) the midbrain, which is called the emotional brain and tells the brainstem whether to protect the body with a fight, flight or freeze response  and 3) the neocortex, where conscious awareness and thinking resides.  The goal of AAT™ is to get your brain to stop sending messages to the body to protect it. The treatment is gentle and when coupled with simple home exercises creates calmness, relaxation and lasting changes in how you feel from a cognitive, physical, and emotional perspective. The goal of AAT™ is to restore balance to your Central Nervous System (brain, brainstem and spinal cord), which will result in balance in your physiology and body.

During Phase I, the first 2 steps of AAT™ re-trains the autonomic nervous system (ANS).  The ANS controls every system in your body and the ANS responds to painful chronic conditions with protective reflexes that results in the fight, flight or freeze response. When you have experienced trauma through injury, accident, abuse of any kind, stress (death, loss of job, divorce, illness) or any situation combined with a sense of helplessness, the ANS responds with protective reflexes.

With a fight or flight protective reflex, one may experience an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, muscle tension or spasms or muscle twitching/shaking, headaches/migraines or dizziness, clammy hands, dry mouth/lump in your throat, anxiety/insomnia or abdominal discomfort.  A freeze response can be characterized by marked muscle tension, fatigue, and lack energy to perform normal daily activities.

During Phase II, steps 3 and 4 of AAT ™ address the limbic system, or emotional brain, housed in the midbrain. The limbic system creates emotional associations to experiences and memories. Every emotion you experience has a physical response. There is a conscious component to the emotional brain, as well as an unconscious component. Steps 3 and 4 are designed specifically to break the negative emotional associations that may have developed throughout your life and resulted in the fight, flight or freeze response.

During Phase III, steps 5 and 6 help you to change the habitual patterns, historical memories and anticipatory expectations that influence both the limbic system and the ANS. This phase addresses the third level of the brain called the neocortex and is your conscious brain where thinking takes place.

By creating a balanced communication between all three levels of your brain, the three phases of AAT™ promotes the healing process and results in life changes for many people.  AAT™ actually treats the cause and not just the symptoms of your chronic condition!

Please call Brookside PT, (303) 428 – 4646, to schedule an evaluation if you would like to try this treatment approach. Ask to be scheduled with out specialist, Jaime West, MSPT.

The creators of AAT™ are Scott Musgrave, MSPT and Ernie Quinlisk, PT, who both reside in Colorado. The information in this article is taken from their course work and their website at .  Please go to their website for more detailed information and resources.