In order to answer this question, we first need to have an understanding of the Alexander Technique.
Only then can we know if it can bring back pain relief.
Firstly, I would like to make it known that I am in no way a medical practitioner or otherwise and have no official Alexander Method training.
However in order to get a better understanding of these things, I have done some extensive research and spent several days writing this post.
If you decide that you think the Alexander Technique can bring you some seriously needed back pain relief, then I would suggest checking out some other authority sites on the matter, and of course consulting with your physician first.
OK, so now that we have got that out of the way, I will say how I am going to set out his article.
I will begin with a brief introduction about what the method is, including the relationship between the method and ergonomics.
In this I will also talk about some of the criticisms that are leveled at this technique, the reason being that I want Brian’s Spine Health HQ to be an unbiased place that you can trust.
Then I will move on to ways in which the Alexander Technique can help to aid in back pain relief and other ailments with constant practice.
Background to this post
I understand just how disabling both acute and chronic back pain can be.
When I was younger my own mother had a slipped disc and had to have major surgery to fix it.
However even though it was technically a success, she has suffered with sporadic pain ever since and it is really horrible to see; especially when you want to help but there is really nothing you can do.
I think that if she had known about the method some time ago, she could have gained some back pain relief by practicing it.
Again, I just want to caution that the Alexander Technique is not the be all and end all to help soothe back pain and thinking carefully about how you live your life, including thinking about how sound ergonomics can also aid you.
Think of it more as a tool in box.
What is the Alexander Method?
Put simply, it is a method of teaching people how to stop using unnecessary levels of muscular and mental tension during their everyday activities.
Essentially it is an educational process with which one learns how to recognize and then correct certain types of movements that we pick up throughout life.
This is as a pose to relaxation techniques or forms of exercise such as Yoga or Pilates.
The purpose of the Alexander Technique is to help people unlearn bad physical habits and postures, and return to a state where you can realign your body into a more balanced state.
According to this authority site:
The method is a way of learning to move mindfully through life. The Alexander process shines a light on inefficient habits of movement and patterns of accumulated tension, which interferes with our innate ability to move easily and according to how we are designed.
The key principles of the method as stated by the NHS are:
- How you move, sit and stand affects how well you function
- The relationship of the head, neck and spine is fundamental to your ability to function optimally
- Becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to make changes and gain benefit
- The mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other
History of the Alexander Technique
The process was made invented by a Frederick Matthias Alexander who was a Shakespearean orator who developed voice loss during his performances.
After trying to find a physical problem by going to various doctors but finding none, he came to the conclusion that perhaps it was something he was doing to himself that was making him lose his voice.
He observed himself in multiple mirrors when practicing for plays which revealed that he was contracting his whole body in preparation for speaking.
He saw that by pulling the head backwards and downwards put unnecessary movement to normal postural, breathing and vocal mechanisms.
Alexander saw the results that this kind of active thinking brought and believed that his work could be applied to improve individual health and well being.
He refined his technique of self-observation and re-training to teach his discoveries to others.
He opened the very first school in the 1960’s due to increased interest, called The American Center for the Alexander Technique, in New York City.
Since then, it has become an established technique, even given some credence by some national health organizations.
How Does the Technique Relate to Ergonomics?
The method is not a relaxation or medical product, it is a way of life.
Just like with ergonomics, you have to constantly think about how to carry yourself correctly, and what things you can do to help to reduce pain and increase comfort.
With the method you are rethinking the way in which you walk, speak, breathe and stand; always conscious about your posture.
This is very similar to ergonomics in the sense that you must always be aware of the things that are making your health suffer.
For example, if you are using a computer mouse all day and are starting to experience pain in your wrist and arm, you can think about a switch to an ergonomic mouse which will go some way to decreasing the discomfort.
Criticisms of the Alexander Method
As I said at the beginning, I want to include a section about some of the criticisms that the Alexander Technique faces.
I will list some of them and briefly explain them:
- The method may not be suitable for certain people such as those with:
- A specific spinal injury
- Severe pain from a herniated (ruptured) disc
- Severe spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine)
- A fracture of the vertebrae (the bones in the spine)
This is because these are very specific injuries and any kind of physical movement could be detrimental. However that said, if you have spoken with your doctor and they agree, you could use this technique as part of a rehabilitation program.
- There is a lot of work involved and it is not a quick program to master
I don’t think that this is really a criticism so to speak. However you should be aware that you will not cure all of your aches and pains over night; but rather through a long process of learning and practice.
- There is no statutory regulation that exists for Alexander technique practitioners
This could be the biggest disparagement against it because vulnerable people could be taken advantage of by unqualified teachers.
However, and it is a big however, it is like many things health related, you just need to do your research. There exists many very reputable resources out their including authorities on the subject such as alextechexpress.com.
So these are some of the possible downsides; but you must really look at the bigger picture and always, always make sure to research for yourself.
For example, if you wanted to find out where to find reputable Alexander Technique centers or teachers in New York, a simple search engine query of “teachers Alexander Technique NYC” will bring up some good results which you could then contact to filter out the ones that don’t sound great.
The best thing of course would be to have a look at some of the websites that are authorities on the subject and they can direct you to where you should be going.
Who Can it Help?
The process is a very option for those suffering acute and chronic back pain, but also has benefits for all sorts of other ailments.
Teachers of the method say that it can potentially improve the lives of types of people from young to old and unfit to healthy.
It can be particularly helpful to elderly people, with evidence that it could help to improve balance and decrease clumsiness.
Of course, well designed, ergonomic products will also help to improve the stability of seniors in their everyday lives.
And, for more information about Pride Mobility Lift Chairs, please go here.
For those with Parkinson’s disease, the method has shown to help them to make lifestyle changes that can help to relieve some physical issues surrounding the disease, but also the mental ones i.e. feeling helpless abut not being able to do things.
For people with Parkinson’s disease, studies have suggested that it may be able to:
- Help the person perform everyday tasks more easily
- Reduce depression
- Increase self-confidence
- Slow down the worsening of symptoms
- Delay the need for increased medication
However in the interests of being as un-sensationalist as possible, these studies are not very big and not as well regarded as other clinical trials.
However, you have nothing to lose if you have Parkinson’s disease and want to try something different.
But again, you should speak to your doctor before trying the ergonomic method.
There is no good evidence to suggest that it can help to improve asthma and you should be very careful about stopping any medications you may be on.
On the other hand, the Alexander Technique is all about thinking and changing the way you compose yourself in order to improve posture and breathing.
It could be a good technique to try and see if you get any results such as increased breathing capacity.
It could also be a way to alleviate stress related asthma for the very reasons listed above.
Back pain relief
Chronic back pain can be the result of many different factors such as:
- Emotional stress
- Flawed body mechanics
- Compressed posture
- Many other factors
It can be treated by the usual methods that we think of when we think of back pain, from massage and pain killers; to non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) or surgery.
These approaches are very valuable for back pain relief, but you should think of all of them as different tools you can use.
If you have something like my own mum had, a slipped disc, then of course surgery and powerful pain killers are going to have to be your first choice.
But the Alexander Technique can also be another tool in your toolbox for easing back pain.
It does this by helping you to perceive the cause of your back problem, and then helping you change your movement style via training from professional practitioners.
According to alexandertechnique.com:
The Alexander Technique is a proven method of self care that reduces pain, increases your mobility and provides long term relief.
It gives you an understanding of the body’s fundamental design and a way to move that will help you feel better, on your own… Through keen observation of the body’s dynamics in movement, [you] focus on how you move as you function.
If you have managed to read this far, I can only assume one of two things.
- Either you are very interested in learning about the Alexander Technique which is fantastic because the more one can learn, the better we can all become.
- Or, you have really quite horrid pain that you would like to get rid of.
Many folks, including my mum, would give anything a go to get back pain relief, and it certainly seems that the Alexander Technique can be a promising methods to help all kinds of health issues. If you want to learn more about Brian’s Spine Health HQ.
Just remember though that to get the full results from this technique, you must spend a fair amount of time learning and practicing it; but then spend your lifetime perfecting and refining it in order to really enjoy your life in comfort and happiness.
I really hoped that you enjoyed this post about the Alexander Technique and that it can bring you some results in pain management.
I would also like to thank Ergonomics.org and AlexanderTechnique.com for giving the inspiration and resources to write this post.
Please feel free to comment and give your own stories or suggestions in the section below.