Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the Western World. Currently medical science has no solution for this problem but the Alexander Technique can help.
In 2008 the British Medical Journal published research demonstrating the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique in the reduction of back pain . The ~500 trial participants on average experienced pain for 24 days in the 4 weeks prior to the trial commencing. 1 year later, those participants who received 24 Alexander Technique lessons experienced pain on only 3 days over 4 weeks, an 87% reduction in pain. The trial also showed that these participants where also able to perform more normal daily movements without pain and reported significantly improved quality of life.
So what is the happening in Alexander Technique lessons that is missing in existing therapies?
The Alexander Technique is fundamentally education rather than therapy. It provides people with information, experiences and tools that they can use to solve their own problems. In the case of back pain, there several things that warrant attention:
- How do I support my self using the deep muscles and structures of the spine, rather than the superficial (surface) muscles of the torso?
- How do I respond to the demands of my life (stress, workload, conflict, physical exertion)? Is my response related to my pain?
- How do I react when I am in pain? Does my reaction lessen or worsen the pain?
- At the end of a demanding day, how can I release any residual tension and give my self a chance to rest effectively?
For most people back pain can be addressed by changing how they perform their daily activities. The change required is a subtle but important redistribution of mental awareness, muscle tone and effort so that tight muscles become released, compressed joints and nerves have more space and stressful or demanding situations become more easily managed.
The challenge in making these changes is that the way we do everyday activities is highly habitual and below the level of our awareness. Our habits reinforce themselves and filter sensory input and influence how we interpret information. Alexander Technique teachers provide skilled manual guidance to help people move and act in fundamentally non habitual ways. This feedback enables a student to uncover important details of the quality of their movement and gain conscious control over previously habitual and unconscious aspects of their movement and posture. This knowledge is the key to resolving issues like chronic back pain.