Everyone is always teaching one what to do, leaving us still doing the things we shouldn’t do
FM Alexander

Alexander Technique and chronic pain

Chronic pain or recurring pain can have a major impact on your quality of life. Often it can feel like there is a brick wall between you and successful pain relief.

Brick wall photo with ladder

The Alexander Technique can be the ladder that helps you climb the wall. Step by step it is a tool for change.

According to the independent Australian National Pain Strategy report, one in five people, including children and teenagers, will experience chronic pain in their lifetime. Headache, migraine and musculoskeletal disorders involving the back, neck and joints are major causes of chronic pain.

Historically, the management of pain has focused on pharmacological agents but this has proved problematic in chronic pain relief.

World bodies in pain research suggest there is now a need to take a more holistic and collaborative approach in finding solutions. Good outcomes are being gained when a more educative approach to pain management is undertaken.

The Alexander Technique supports these ideas through its whole-person educational approach, which provides a structured method for addressing the nature of underlying habits that can perpetuate chronic pain. The Technique melds the study of human habit with a gentle method for relieving tension and stress. Through the development of the student’s conscious awareness and observation skills a process of learning and change evolves that can be applied to many problems, particularly those due to poor posture and maladaptive movement patterns.

The Alexander Technique approach:

  • supports the improvement of  overall health and wellbeing
  • has been proven to modify the experience of pain
  • is an educational process that creates lasting change
  • can complement pain management programs
  • teaches self-management skills for chronic pain
  • looks at how use affects function and how better function improves wellbeing

Posture and pain

computer slumpd141133729

Increased time spent sitting at computers affects posture and balance. It is a good example of how use can affect function. Sitting at computers for extended periods leads to postural fatigue and the inevitable ‘slumping’ with loss of  postural support.The creation of ensuing muscle tension puts pressure on joints and the spine. This, along with loss of muscle tone in the supportive structures of the torso, can leave the spine vulnerable to injury. The Technique helps you to become aware of harmful postural and movement habits and teaches skills to change them. From an Alexander technique point of view it is not how good the chair is but how well you are using yourself when you are sitting in it that makes the difference.

Prevention is better than cure

Learning and using the Technique gives you the skills to look after your own musculoskeletal health. As you learn to use the  Technique on a daily basis, the improved use of yourself that you gain helps prevent tension, pain and injury.

For people already in pain or discomfort, the Technique works to unravel tensions, joint stiffness and restrictions in movement by utilising conscious awareness of habitual patterns that are interfering with postural reflexes. This is a gentle process. Learning how to release tension patterns leads to restoration of postural reflexes and better overall muscle tone bringing back natural poise and balance.  Self-management skills inherent in the learning ultimately help to prevent further problems.

Combining pain education with the skills of the Technique creates a powerful pathway for people in chronic pain to find lasting relief.

The brain and pain

Chronic pain itself is known to change some ways in which the brain and nervous system function. One way pain can change the brain is to make it more sensitive to pain. This is a natural protective function but can also make recovery more difficult. This increased sensitivity of the brain and nervous system to pain is known as sensitisation.

Along with this sensitisation of the nervous system, a fear of movement can also develop. By limiting or changing the way you move because of the fear of hurting yourself again, you create excess tension that can lead to more problems and sometimes further injury.

Knowing your patterns of fear and protection is valuable information which, when combined with the practical skills of the Technique, can improve the quality of your movements and lead to pain relief. Reducing chronic underlying tensions and habits promotes calmness and clarity of thinking, which helps settle a sensitive nervous system, leading to a more balanced state of being.

Think Alexander incorporates some basic education on how the brain makes pain into the lessons. This knowledge has been proven in helping people to understand their pain more clearly.

Scientific evidence

There is scientific evidence that validates the Alexander Technique, particularly its effectiveness in helping those with low back pain. It also has moderate evidence for improving disability in Parkinson’s disease.

Studies also suggest the Technique is good for improving balance, general chronic pain, posture problems, respiratory function and stuttering.  More investigations into the Technique are underway around the world.

No adverse effects have been noted in studies so far.

For further information on the Alexander Technique go to the resources page.

My blog  also has more information the Alexander Technique an it’s applications.

The Alexander technique is taught worldwide and there are many informative resources available.
You may find something of interest to you in my Blog. Here I share some commentaries and opinions on the Alexander technique and related topics.

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