Cure No. 1, Alexander Technique

The work of Frederick Matthias Alexander

Have we forgotten about Alexander? – the man whose pioneering work was sought out by aspiring and seasoned actors to enhance their performances, whose work was recognised and endorsed by the Chairman of the BMAand other doctors. Scientists, people working in the fields of politics, religion, education and business valued his work and sought him out.

F. M. Alexander

F. M. Alexander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just imagined if that happened today – in 2012! How would the approach to back care and other aliments be different?

Alexander developed his Technique in the 1890’s, it gained popularity through the early 1900’s, he died in 1955 and then three years later his students formed a society to carry on educating teachers to help people and it exists to this day – STAT ( As recent as 2008 the Medical Research Council and the NHS Research and Development Fund set up a trial to investigate the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique for the treatment of chronic and recurrent back pain. You can view the trial details on the BMJ website.

One of the main results of this trial is as follows :

 The best results were seen in the 24 AT lesson group, with important improvements in function, quality of life and reduction in days in pain. One year after the trial started, the average number of activities limited by low back pain (the RM disability score) had fallen by 42%, and the number of days in pain was only three per month, compared with 21 days in pain in the control group.

A further trial has recently been completed which was funded by APCRC – Avon Primary Care Research Collaborative (APCRC) NHS Bristol. The details of this trial are shown currently by clicking this link

Maybe one day the AT will be available through the NHS? See post ‘Teaching Doctors?’ for information about a proposed individualised care plan for patients that could contain the Alexander Technique.

So the words in the title – Cure No 1! That’s a bold statement! For me the Alexander Technique has been a cure – it has cured me of the intense agony of whole body spasms (a spasm is when your muscles clench around an injury – they can feel solid and painful and limit the movement in the area they are contracted – just imagine that happening throughout your whole body!). It has enabled me to use my body in a more efficient way, thus taking pressure and strain off areas which are damaged or weak. Other techniques have then been used to increase flexibility, tone and stamina, always using the principles of AT whilst doing so, without fear of further damage. In short it has given me awareness of my body and my life back! Therefore for me it is the ‘No 1 Cure’! (I will go on to describe, in my eyes, two more ‘cures’ in future posts.)

I would urge anyone who has got chronic pain, or who feels they are no longer in control of their body or who would just like to move, sit, stand with greater efficiency (it can enhance your performance in sports, musical instrument playing and many other areas) to research and look into the Alexander Technique (I have found Richard Brennan’s books easy to read and give a modern take on the Technique – others are available! See also the STAT website for a list of teachers around the world). Maybe you are fit and healthy and can participate in exercise classes and sport but for some reason still get the same pain in your neck or back time and time again. I can’t even begin to list all of the reasons where the Alexander Technique can be beneficial. If you are thinking about what your next move is to try to sort out your current problem then put the Alexander Technique to the top of the list to find out more about! See also the post ‘Pain, unrelenting’ if you are undecided where to turn due to your pain being all consuming.

I would also urge the BMA to look back at the recommendations of their previous Chairman, Peter MacDonald and to reassess them. Conduct trials like the 2008 one and lets have another weapon against the insidious problem of chronic pain and inefficient use of our bodies.

Personally, I don’t like the term – The Alexander Technique. It implies there is one thing to be learnt – as soon as I mention the Alexander Technique to people they assume its all about posture and immediately sit up straighter! I have read that Alexander called his Technique – the Work, but it was changed later by his students. For me the Work of Alexander is similar to learning to ride a bicycle. It takes concentration, some skill, balance and once learnt, you have it for life. I will be saving for my children to have lessons before going off to college, but maybe by then the NHS might have considered funding the learning of the Technique for all who want to learn, maybe schools will introduce it or employers add it to their induction programs? Maybe we should all relearn how to ‘drive’ our bodies (our young children do it naturally!) in a more efficient way?

(Sarah does not have a medical background so it is emphasised that her blog is the result of her experiences and listening to others only. Before doing any of the suggestions contained in her blog, check with your doctor if you have any concerns on how they may affect you)


4 thoughts on “Cure No. 1, Alexander Technique

  1. Pingback: Cure No. 1 | Surviving Back Pain

  2. Pingback: How do I care for my back daily? | Surviving Back Pain

  3. Pingback: Any one for tennis? | Surviving Back Pain

  4. Pingback: Subtle awareness, is this one of the answers? | Surviving Back Pain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s