A recent study shows how lessons in the Alexander Technique are used to tackle pain.
The Bristol study report recommended that Alexander Technique lessons should be considered by NHS commissioners who are interested in providing a cost saving addition to pain clinic service provision, and as a service for those who are seeking a long-term educational approach to the management of chronic pain.
Just a handful of lessons in the Alexander Technique can lead to a significant reduction in chronic pain, according to a growing body of research evidence.
One study involving NHS patients in Bristol – the majority of whom suffered chronic back pain – saw more than half of them stop or reduce their medication after just six lessons with a qualified STAT teacher.
And STAT’s latest teacher survey shows that almost four fifths (79%) of people taking Alexander lessons turn to the Technique for pain relief, and more than 70 per cent continue with lessons to help them improve self-management of long-term or recurrent pain. Others opted for lessons to help them improve posture and personal performance.
Dr Peter Brook, the lead consultant at St Michael’s Hospital Pain Management Clinic where the study took place (University Hospitals Bristol, NHS Trust) said: ‘If more than half of them (the patients) have significantly reduced their medication and they’re happier, and their pain is unchanged or slightly better, then that’s a very good result. The fact that their pain is the same or slightly better on half as much medication is an enormous improvement.
Users of the Technique are well aware of the benefits of learning to identify and let go of poor posture and movement habits to reduce pain and undo tension and stress. More and more people are turning to the Technique to manage not only pain but to improve posture and their general health and wellbeing. Lessons are much more than a therapy and this is the reason why they work. When people are taught the Alexander Technique it brings about a self-improvement of the way they live and they can apply the Technique to many aspects of their daily lives. As a consequence, the benefits are diverse and can continue in the long term.
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Neck pain and related stiffness, loss of mobility and flexibility is one of the main reasons people come for Alexander lessons.
Often caused by slumped postures such as periods of sitting in the “head poking” pattern characterised by desk workers staring at their screens, the head/neck area comes forward, thus squashing the entire body. This basic pattern needs to be addressed to remedy the pattern of postural compression.
FM. Alexander who developed the Alexander Technique after losing his voice and confounding the medical experts, discovered, after prolonged self observation that it was the habitual position of his neck in relation to his body that was causing his loss of voice as well as postural compression. He discovered that the key to the door in terms of resolving his voice problem lay in changing this habitual pattern. He achieved this through a series of thought processes to “re-programme” his old habits.
Many people move their head with too much muscular effort and tension, thus fatiguing and tensing the muscles. In addition, they may be articulating their head from the lower neck vertebrae, creating reduced mobility and wear and tear. The head is designed to balance lightly from the top of the spine which is located approximately from between the ears.
In an Alexander lesson your head will be gently guided by expert hands into a new poised balance which will encourage your spine to lengthen and your back to “wake up”. Pain is reduced through practice of this new poise rather than painkilling medication/strengthening exercises or manipulations.
“My chronic neck problems are now much better thanks to the Alexander Technique. Rachel has helped me improve my posture. Strongly recommended whatever age you are.”
Back pain is one of the biggest causes of absenteeism in the UK. It is painful and debilitating and yet is a very common condition affecting adults of all ages.
It is estimated that one in five people will visit their GP in any given year because of back pain. And 80% of adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their life.
In August 2008 the results of a 2 year (ATEAM) trial into the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique for chronic back pain sufferers was published.
This study has proved that the Alexander Technique is highly effective in relieving back pain without recourse to painkillers, surgery, vigorous exercises or uncomfortable manipulation. The video clip below is from the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The answer lies in a simple, yet powerful, method that is more than 100 years old.
Alexander Technique – which works on releasing muscle tension to improve posture, alignment and movement – is significantly more effective at reducing chronic or recurrent back pain than typical GP-prescribed treatment.
“Until I came to see you I was waiting for surgery. With your help I’m now completely free of back pain.”
B C Bristol