The Alexander Technique and Back Pain
I want to say how much the Alexander Technique has helped me with herniated disks in my lower back. Until I made a commitment to the technique after becoming Lindsay's student in the summer of 2007 at the age of 43, they were a recurring problem and each time I re-herniated them the technique gave me immediate relief from the discomfort. However, since being Lindsay's regular student for two years now, I have not re-herniated them. -David Barnes, PhD student in Epidemiology, Columbia University
According to a recent article in Reader's Digest, back pain is "a major drain on the American economy, costing more than $90 billion a year in medical bills." The Alexander Technique provides an effective, alternative approach to common treatments by simply addressing how the back-pain sufferer is using his/her body.
What often causes lower back pain?
People tend to cause lower back pain by habitually compressing the spine and in effect exaggerating the lumbar curve in the lower back. The compression is typically not limited to the lower back and can usually be found to have its origins in compression from above (coming from the head, neck, and upper back). Most people unconsciously pull their heads back and down by chronically tightening the muscles in the back of the neck. This tightening of the neck is a startle response that becomes a habitual response to the strain of daily life. The head is heavy (8-10 lbs). Pulling the head back and down creates a chain reaction down through the whole spine. When working with people with lower back pain, Alexander teachers address how the person is using their whole body, starting with how they are using the head, neck and upper back. Typically, addressing this issue solves the lower back issue.
Here is an analogy to what has just been described: Imagine that you are making a bed and there is a wrinkle in the middle of the sheet. If you try to smooth it out with your hand, you'll probably just end up moving the wrinkle around. (Think of lower back compression as analogous to the wrinkle). The most effective way to eliminate the wrinkle would be to tug on the ends of the sheet and take out the slack that is allowing for the wrinkle (think of releasing the tension in the neck that pulls the head down as pulling on an end of the sheet).
British Medical Journal Study
In a large-scale randomized, controlled study published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal, chronic back pain sufferers who took 24 Alexander Technique lessons reduced back pain by 85%. At the end of the year, participants in the study who'd had no intervention suffered an average of 21 days of back pain per month. Those who'd had 24 Alexander Technique lessons reduced the number of days of pain per month to 3. The study demonstrates that the Alexander Technique is both a highly effective and cost-effective method of significantly reducing back pain.
Watch this video about the British Medical Journal study. (in 2 parts)
To read the Abstract of the study: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/aug19_2/a884