WHAT IS ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE AND HOW DOES IT HELP TO PREVENT NECK AND BACK PAIN?
Up to 80% of Americans may have back pain at some point in their life. Each year, 15% of all people receive medical attention for conditions including spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or lumbar pain.
In addition to making you look better, maintaining good posture also improves muscular tone, facilitates breathing, and is one of the best practices to prevent back and neck pain, as well as the dreaded old age dowager's hump.
The Alexander technique emphasizes better movement and posture, which helps to reduce and prevent issues brought on by unhealthy habits. It is a technique for regaining natural equilibrium and poise while engaging in an activity, but is not an exercise regimen.
The Alexander technique (AT) was first developed to establish the ideal environment for skilled performance. It is a valuable technique for altering people's movement patterns and movement-related thoughts while they go about their daily tasks. The AT is a sophisticated re-educational technique with therapeutic benefits but is not a therapy. It uses a series of practical knowledge to address a person's complete movement philosophy rather than focusing on a single symptom.
The technique can be incorporated into simple daily activities like sitting, walking, bending, and standing. AT tries to educate and teach users how to use the postural mechanism that controls upright support and movement in the proper manner. These mechanisms include motor control of the postural muscles as well as coordination of the head, trunk, and limbs.
A person can be taught to become more conscious of these mechanisms and make various decisions regarding coordination, movement, and locomotion. However, these mechanisms are typically habitual and unrecognized. The Alexander approach emphasizes the coordination of the trunk and head as a fundamental relationship for effective movement. An individual learns self-help through the mix of expert, gentle touch training and verbal instruction.
Physiotherapy involves specialized supervised exercises that are performed at specific times to strengthen, boost aerobic capacity, stretch, and improve motor control. On the other hand, the Alexander technique focuses primarily on the critical relationship between the head, neck, and back. It uses the semi-supine position as a core technique, guides and assesses movement and coordination, and is used during daily activities. It also involves proprioceptive re-education.
The following are the main principles of the Alexander technique:
- "Your ability to function is influenced by how you stand, sit, and move."
- "Your capacity to perform at your best depends on the alignment of your head, neck, and spine."
- "The body and the mind work together intimately as one, and each one continually influences the other."
- "You must become more attentive to how you conduct your daily activities to improve and gain benefit."
The technique's teachers claim that long-term bodily misuses, such as inefficient movement and unbalanced weight distribution while standing or sitting, frequently lead to conditions like backaches and other types of chronic pain.
Your body will become balanced and more naturally aligned due to the Alexander technique, which aims to assist you in "unlearning" these harmful behaviors.
The general goal is to assist you in grasping the fundamental concepts involved so you may put them to use in your daily life and benefit from the technique without taking regular, continuous courses.
Anyone from any age group, at practically any level of physical condition, and from all backgrounds can benefit from the Alexander technique. The AT is likely to be helpful for the more prevalent types of back, neck, and other muscle and joint pain when the issue is either triggered by or made worse by mistakes in coordination, including balance and posture. Better regulation of forces in movement, posture, and balance can help reduce symptoms even in conditions with systemic origins or as a result of injury.
AT lessons are primarily a partnership between the student and the teacher, as are any educational processes. Although AT is mostly practical, it does not call for a great level of academic aptitude but demands a desire to participate and discover new things. Most people find taking a course in AT classes to be engaging and fun.
Indications for the Alexander technique are:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Ergonomic skills
- Postural tone and posture
- Parkinson's disease
- Movement coordination
- Well-being and self-help
- Musical performance
The Alexander technique works by assisting individuals in recognizing and avoiding the bad postural and movement patterns that exacerbate or maybe the root of stress, pain, and underperformance. By following its guidelines, students can become aware of undesirable responses to stimuli, particularly concerning physical movements and the intents that precede them, and then learn to carry out an action without those ineffective elements. They include any unnecessary stature shortening or stiffening.
As defined by the Alexander technique, primary control is an excellent neuromuscular organization, which happens when the entire body can expand without restriction. To make this happen:
- The neck must be free for the spine to lengthen
- The top of the spine should be the direction in which the head moves
- The back muscles should relax
- The legs and arms should serve as the extension of the back
The Alexander approach aims to increase your awareness of your movements and thoughts. Simple recommendations include the following:
Standing: Most of us have a habitual way of standing, like constantly shifting the weight of our body onto one leg. But how does it feel to stand the "other" way around?
Sitting: Most of us have a routine when it comes to sitting, like always crossing one leg. How does it feel to sit in the "opposite" way, crossing the legs in a different direction? However, the ideal sitting position is achieved with both feet flat on the floor and positioning the torso over the pelvis.
Walking: When you walk, does your chin, stomach, or pelvis take the lead? Taking Alexander classes is the easiest way to learn to walk. You will learn how to stretch your neck to make room for your head to move forward and upward, as well as to lengthen and widen your back. The act of moving then becomes enjoyable.
The Alexander technique emphasizes the importance of movement using the least energy and effort possible. Changing postural habits and redistributing muscle work more gently and evenly across the body are both attainable with awareness. You can benefit from the Alexander technique in a variety of ways, such as:
- Sporting performance
- Balance and posture
- Stress management
- Back pain management
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
The AT may relieve various conditions, including neck discomfort, back pain, stiff and painful joints, stress, breathing issues, performance anxiety, and more. In addition, it encourages better vocal performance, posture, flexibility, balance, poise, confidence, and agility.
The method has helped people of all ages and walks of life improve their quality of life. Moreover, because the Alexander technique has been taught for over a century, some well-known people have publicly endorsed it.
The Alexander technique is typically taught in one-on-one settings. In addition to verbal instructions, the teacher utilizes their hands to lead the student through everyday actions including sitting, walking, standing, bending, and lying down.
The originator of the AT, F.M. Alexander found early in his teaching career that helping a student experience moving in a more refined way, relatively free from habitual interferences, was a faster and more straightforward way of teaching a skill than almost any amount of verbal explanation.
He created a unique approach to hands-on learning where the teacher gently directs the student's movement. Almost everyone who has used AT's hands-on approach to learning is amazed by its strength and potency.
Classes often last 30 to 45 minutes and are held in a clinic, studio, or the teacher's home. You will be asked to dress comfortably and loosely so that you have freedom of movement. For lessons, no clothes are removed.
The teacher will watch how you move and demonstrate more balanced, less strenuous ways to stand, sit, and lie down. Their hands will softly guide your movements, which will also help you relax your muscles and establish a better relationship between your head, neck, and spine.
To understand the fundamental ideas of the Alexander technique, you will need to attend several classes. Usually, 20 or more lessons per week are recommended.
Ache and pains may improve quickly after beginning training, according to the teachers of the technique. However, you must be dedicated to doing what you learn, and it may take some time to get the full benefits.
Preventing issues like repetitive strain injury (RSI) and low back pain may be possible with the Alexander technique. The technique is safe, and many individuals report finding it beneficial, but there is insufficient published data on its effectiveness for joint pain and inflammation.
Proponents of the Alexander technique frequently assert that it can help individuals with various medical conditions. The AT is an essential component of the curriculum of the most esteemed acting academies and music conservatories since it has long been recognized as a potent tool for skilled performance.
Doctors are less familiar with it as a means of assisting patients with pertinent medical issues. This is due to the lack of significant studies. But, this will soon change because of substantial recent and upcoming publications. The results of the clinical trials and well-designed studies are promising.
The Alexander technique was more effective than other health interventions for treating chronic low back pain in a large, well-designed clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal. One year after taking lessons, people with back pain who had completed 24 Alexander lessons experienced only 3 days of pain per month, as opposed to 21 days for patients who received the standard care from their physician. Along with reporting a remarkable number of other "quality of life" advantages, they also said AT substantially reduced incapacity—even individuals who only received 6 classes experienced fewer than half as many days of suffering. In addition, there were no negative consequences noted.
Smaller but well-designed studies have shown that the Alexander technique can benefit those with Parkinson's disease. Likewise, breathing disorders, balance problems in older adults, and several problems where how a person uses themselves during activity affects how effectively they function have been shown to benefit from AT.
The International Journal of Clinical Practice has recently assessed the data on the efficacy of AT lessons across various health-related issues. For example, the review identified strong evidence to support the usefulness of AT classes for patients with persistent back pain. In contrast, moderate evidence supported their potential to decrease the disability associated with Parkinson's disease.
There is preliminary evidence for a wide range of other health-related issues. For example, the effectiveness of AT for persistent neck pain is currently being studied in a major clinical trial in the UK.
According to certain studies, the Alexander technique may help elderly individuals stammer less, have better balance, and experience less overall long-term pain—all of which could reduce their risk of falling. Yet there is little data in these areas, so additional research is required.
There is currently scant evidence that the Alexander approach can help treat various medical ailments, such as stress, headaches, asthma, osteoarthritis, and difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
It is a good idea to chat with your doctor or a specialist first if you have one of these diseases and are thinking about trying the Alexander technique to see if it could be right for you.
- Improvement in automatic postural coordination following Alexander Technique lessons in a person with low back pain. Physical Therapy 2005;85:565-578
- Cacciatore, T.W., et al. Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training. Human Movement Science (2010)
- Little P, Lewith G, Webley F, Evans M, Beattie A, Middleton K, et al. Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain.
- Stallibrass C; Sissons P; Chalmers C. Randomized; controlled trial of the Alexander Technique for idopathic Parkinson’s disease. Clinical Rehabilitation 2002;16:695-708.
- Stallibrass C; Frank C; Wentworth K. Retention of skills learnt in Alexander Technique lessons: 28 people with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2005;9:150-7
- Stallibrass C. An evaluation of the Alexander Technique for the management of disability in Parkinson’s disease – a preliminary study. Clinical Rehabilitation 1997;11: 8-12.
- Woodman JP and Moore NR. Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in medical and health-related conditions: a systematic review. International Journal of Clinical Practice 2012;66:98-112.
- Batson G, Barker S. Feasibility of group delivery of the Alexander Technique on balance in the community-dwelling elderly: preliminary findings. Activities Adaptation and Aging 2008;32:103-119.
- Dennis RJ. Functional reach improvement in normal older women after Alexander Technique instruction. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 1999;54:M8-M11.
- Austin JHM and Ausubel P. Enhanced respiratory muscular function in normal adults after lessons in proprioceptive musculoskeletal education without exercises. Chest 1992;102:486-90.
- MacPherson, Hugh et al. “Alexander Technique Lessons or Acupuncture Sessions for Persons With Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Trial.” Annals of internal medicine vol. 163,9 (2015): 653-62. doi:10.7326/M15-0667
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