Alexander Technique and scoliosis

Alexander Technique and scoliosis

 Alexander Technique and scoliosis.

 

Scoliosis is a condition where your spine has lateral curves that are extra to the normal spinal curves.

There are seven types of scoliosis. The most common type is called Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS).  AIS affects many more adolescent girls than boys. The reason for this is not clear. Common treatments are back bracing and/or surgery.

If you have scoliosis, then Alexander Technique can help you by showing you how to reduce tension around your spine; establishing how to harness your body’s natural coordination system; teaching you to work with your body’s design; developing lightness and ease in movement.

Alexander Technique recorrects postural habits and by creating new awareness of where your body is placed in space, and response to things around you, you develop better proprioception and improved neural function.  This supports structural strength with new muscle activation and improved posture for optimal function and coordination.

People with scoliosis have reported how the Alexander Technique has been a helpful way for them to develop a greater awareness, self-esteem and an overall empowered sense of their bodies.

The Scoliosis Association of the UK lists the technique as a helpful practice for people with scoliosis. 

Managing scoliosis

Adults with scoliosis ranging from mild to severe can at times experience back pain or discomfort. Alexander Technique can instruct you on how to let go of unnecessary tensions, stiffening and collapse that you may have patterned. These often have developed as a habit in response to wearing a back brace and may be exacerbating.  Instruction on easy uprightness, natural full breathing and reduction of muscular tension can assist you to be more comfortable in your body. In some cases, exaggerated back curves will reduce with improved posture and muscle tone.

Alexander for children developing scoliosis

Where a child is found to have a mild scoliosis or a developing scoliosis, Alexander Technique lessons can show them methods for releasing up off the spinal curve, rather than compressing down onto it. Encouraging easy uprightness and good postural habits will not prevent the scoliosis but may assist the child by:

1. Reducing the amount of compensatory tension and collapse

2. Providing positive strategies for addressing the changes that are occurring

3. Increasing body comfort and self-image.

Alexander Technique and bracing

Sometimes, young people have their scoliosis treated with a brace that they wear under their clothes for a prescribed amount of time each day.

Alexander instruction does not conflict with the medical treatment of wearing the brace. It does help the person to overcome some of the side effects of wearing a back brace over an extended period.

The brace holds the torso tightly and is designed to prevent the back curve from worsening.

The young person may develop over-tension in neck, shoulders and legs as a compensation for wearing the brace. The back muscles may weaken and lose tone. Breathing may be constrained because of squeezing around the rib cage and torso.

Alexander Technique can assist the young person, who is using a back brace, to prevent harmful breathing habits from developing and to maintain back muscle tone.  Alexander awareness can assist the brace wearer to minimise the postural impact of the treatment and to maintain easy uprightness when the brace is not being worn.

Have a look at a series of short videos from a scoliosis sufferer Galen Cranz. click here

Alexander Technique lessons can be an important way that people who suffer from AIS or other forms of scoliosis can manage their condition. 

Further reading

The Alexander Technique and scoliosis for children,adolescents and teenagers

Lindsay Newitter blogs about her experience of scoliosis and use of Alexander Technique to assist

Alexander Technique for scoliosis-hope for sufferers, especially parents of children with the condition

Scoliosis and pain reduction using Alexander Technique

 

Alexander Technique and scoliosis

Video: Galen Cranz talks about managing her scoliosis with Alexander Technique.

Is Alexander Technique Quackery?

Is Alexander Technique Quackery?

Is Alexander Technique Quackery?

If you are developing an interest in Alexander Technique, it’s good to gather information and understand what it is and how it may be helpful.

To some people, Alexander Technique is quackery. They think of it as unscientific. They like to demean it and place it into a category of exclusion. Quite often, even though they may be well educated people, they will make this scathing determination without having the least knowledge of Alexander Technique, its history, its practice and its methodology.

Alexander Technique has been taught around the world for over 120 years and has a good reputation for delivering positive outcomes. Is it too good to be true?

How can education be quackery?

The Oxford dictionary says that the term “quackery” relates to medical treatments that make false claims. Alexander Technique is not a treatment, medical or otherwise. It professes no cure. It teaches people to become aware of their movement. How can becoming aware of your movement and posture be quackery?

People expect Alexander Technique to provide cures or treatments. That’s a misunderstanding of Alexander Technique.

To then judge Alexander by those misunderstandings is ridiculous. A dietician cannot make you lose weight. A guitar teacher can’t make you play well. A French teacher can’t make you speak French. Similarly, an Alexander teacher cannot force you learn about your movement and posture and then implement that learning.

If you follow the dietician’s advice you might lose weight. If you want to play guitar, a guitar teacher can be extremely helpful.

How does it work?

An Alexander Technique teacher can assist you to move, balance and coordinate in a better more efficient way. The mechanism used is awareness. Specifically, Alexander Technique brings awareness to the elastic support of muscles, bones and ligaments in movement and posture.  Movements that rigidify muscle can become destructive because they force the body to over-effort to compensate.

Alexander Technique observes that good posture and movement involves an easy elastic muscle tonus.

Learners are shown how to discriminate between constructive balanced movements and destructive overly-tense movements. This discrimination involves recognising detailed information from afferent nerves. These nerves are found in muscle tissue and feed information about muscle contraction to our minds. Normally, not noticed, Alexander Technique trains people to understand the difference between quality of movement using that “tension information”. It’s that simple. It’s also highly effective for people with posture and movement related problems.

Indirect benefits

If you lose weight (well done) there may be a secondary benefit. Risk of diabetes reduce, risk of heart disease, breathing will improve. You may even feel better. These benefits are indirect. They are also cascading in that, if you lose that weight many elements of your life may improve one after the other but all at the same time.

This is the same with Alexander Technique. It teaches you to think about movement and posture in different ways. Alexander technique skill assists you to move with less muscular effort, different weight distribution and greater sensory awareness. This occurs through a process of “reafference” where the regulation and interaction of internal feedback and sensory signals for bodily movements are brought into conscious awareness. People respond to this instruction very positively. This isn’t outlandish mumbo jumbo. In fact, there is a great deal of science (see below) that affirms the Alexander approach and the sensible benefits it suggests might be available. Is Alexander Technique quackery? No it is not!

Alexander Technique teachers think that learning Alexander Technique movement skills also has indirect, cascading benefits to health. They do not treat back pain or neck pain or any other ailment. Alexander Technique teaches movement. However, over the years, many people have reported that the more efficient movement that is taught to individuals seems to have an indirect positive influence on many chronic conditions.

An unusual model

FM Alexander (1869-1955) suggested that human functioning was more complex than mechanical models suggested at the time. He observed that many human responses involved the coordination of the parts of the body. He observed that the coordination of the parts led to overall effects that were greater than the sum of those parts. He recognised that human movement was fine and nuanced. He saw that the lifting of an arm was not a mere mechanical event but also served to convey meaning, mood, skill and dexterity all at the same time.

He suggested that there was probably an integrated organisational system of movement that allowed for skillful, lively and easy interplay with the world.

He observed that there was evidence of  an organisational system of movement reflected in the relationship of head balance to spinal tone. He supposed that this relationship could be an important primary element for movement organisation. What if people with difficulty in movement could effect change by working with this relationship.

Research

The indirect influence of improved movement on people’s health and well being has sparked the curiosity of many qualified and interested people. There has been a great deal of research into how and why Alexander Technique movement skills indirectly influence people’s general health.

There are some very interesting studies of Alexander Technique training and its influence on health and well being. click here to see a list of published research

FM Alexander (1869-1955) was keen to explain his method for movement training to medical people. However, he was also very insistent that his technique not be relinquished to the medical profession.

His reason for this antipathy was that he feared that his discoveries about movement would be misunderstood, re-interpreted and consequently, diminished.

Many scholarly articles about Alexander Technique appear to be written by people who have had limited experience of the Alexander Technique. Unfortunately they bring their own filters and bias to their papers.

One such paper published recently started by saying, “The Alexander Technique is a method for the treatment of chronic back pain conditions.”

It isn’t.

Alexander Technique is an educative technique that teaches people to become aware of their movement and posture and to find ways to alter these towards better efficiency. It uses a model that is very similar to modern systems theory and embodied intelligence models. Each model suggests that feedback can be misleading when it is limited or constrained to fixed methods and small samples. Alexander teaches pupils to increase the range and scope of feedback coming from both inside and outside the body.

As already stated, learning about your movement, posture and balance can have secondary indirect benefits-but they are secondary. The focus of Alexander Technique is education about movement, posture and balance. It is not about treatment.

Stupidity

Is Alexander Technique Quackery?  No, definitely not! Some people, who are scathing of Alexander Technique, scream out that, using scientific method (Cochrane method), there is only a moderate amount of proof of the efficacy of Alexander Technique. It’s not quite the same as suggesting quackery, is it?

Articles that suggest skepticism are generally not skeptical, instead they are cynical and have predetermined focus on debunking any process that doesn’t conform to their fixed ideas. These are the same people who debunked Galileo, DaVinci, Newton etc.

Unless you are a large drug company with very large budget, providing proof that meets the Cochrane test is very difficult. Random control double blind trials with very large (thousands) test groups; research less than 5 years old are required. Alexander actually has a number of random controlled double blind studies that were carried out and showed quite positive results but the test groups were only in the hundreds not the thousands.

Other “treatments” (have I made the point that Alexander Technique isn’t a treatment??) that also fail to show efficacy using Cochrane are back surgery, hip and knee replacements, discectomy and a range of other accepted medical practices.

So, do I think that modern surgery is quackery? Of course not. Nor is Alexander Technique.

Does Alexander Technique work?

Does Alexander Technique encourage mindless conditioning, faith in unscientific methods, foolish behaviours, strange rituals? Absolutely not!  In fact, if anything, Alexander Technique teaches people to apply evidence-based thoughtfulness to their movement.  This is why so many professional people, scientists, lawyers, musicians, authors and intellectuals study Alexander Technique and talk positively about its benefits. Learning Alexander Technique is a safe and useful skill that can have multiple benefits for your health and well being.

Alexander technique teachers are trained for three years minimum where they learn functional anatomy, physiology and highly detailed awareness of movement, balance, posture and coordination.  These highly trained individuals, work by a code of conduct, carry out yearly continuing professional development and provide professional training to their clients.

You can rest assured that, by learning Alexander Technique, you will get a new perspective on your movement, posture, coordination and balance. It is hoped that you will also benefit from the secondary cascading benefits of Alexander Technique training but that process is indirect and consequential.

I invite anyone to come to an Introductory presentation on the Alexander Technique. I hold those regularly here at Leura. You will be surprised and delighted that this educative technique can assist you to improve.

Is Alexander Technique quackery?

Given how Alexander Technique makes for more ease and efficiency, it is no surprise that many household names are amongst the celebrities who have trained in Alexander Technique.

Amongst them are:

John Cleese, Hugh Jackman, Greg Chapel, Roald Dahl, Kenneth Branagh, Linford Christie, Dame Judi Dench, James Galway, Jeremy Irons, Barry Humphries, Prunella Scales, Jennifer Saunders, Julia Sawalha, Roger Woodward, Robin Williams, Sir Paul McCartney, Christopher Reeve, Paul Newman Sting, James Galway Kevin Kline Daley Thompson William Hurt Yehudi Menuhin

John Dewey, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, Raymond Dart, George E. Coghill, Charles Sherrington, and Nikolaas Tinbergen.

Some quotes:

97% of people with back pain could benefit by learning the Alexander Technique – it is only a very small minority of back pain sufferers that require medical intervention such as surgery.

Jack Stern, spinal neurosurgeon

I find The Alexander Technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you.

John Cleese, actor

The Alexander Technique will benefit anyone whether they are an elite athlete or whether they just wish to live life without the aches and pains that many people suffer and accept as part of life. It is a pity that these techniques are not shown to us all at an early age for I have no doubt that this would alleviate many of the causes of ill health in our communities.

Greg Chappell Australian test cricketer

The Alexander Technique works… I recommend it enthusiastically to anyone who has neck pains or back pain.

Roald Dahl, writer

Mr Alexander has done a service to the subject [of the study of reflex and voluntary movement] by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psychophysical man. To take a step is an affair, not of this or that limb solely, but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment, not least of the head and neck.

Sir Charles Sherrington, neurophysiologist

Alexander students rid themselves of bad postural habits and are helped to reach with their bodies and minds, an enviable degree of freedom of expression.

Michael Langham, Director. The Juilliard School, New York USA

The Alexander Technique can be sustaining; it is something that if learned well, can be carried along with you for the rest of your life. It gives you confidence to be who you are when you are up in front of an audience.

Patrick Addams, Managing director. Royal Academy of Music

Of all the disciplines that form the actor training program, none is more vital, enriching, and transformative than the Alexander Technique.

Harold Stone, Associate Director, Theatre Department. The Juilliard School, New York USA

We already notice, with growing amazement, very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure, breathing, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness, resilience against outside pressures, and in such a refined skill as playing a musical instrument.

Professor Nicholas Tinbergen. Nobel Prize winner for medicine and physiology

Alexander established not only the beginnings of a far-reaching science of the involuntary movements that we call reflexes, but a technique of correction and self-control which forms a substantial addition to our very slender resources in personal education.

George Bernard Shaw, writer. Nobel Prize winner for literature

It gives us all the things we have been looking for in a system of physical education: relief from strain due to maladjustment, and consequent improvement in physical and mental health, increased consciousness of the physical means employed to gain the ends proposed by the will and, along with this, a general heightening of consciousness on all levels… We cannot ask more from any system of physical education; nor, if we seriously desire to alter human beings in a desirable direction, can we ask any less.

Aldous Huxley, writer

The Alexander Technique has helped me to undo knots, unblock energy and deal with almost paralysing stage fright. 

William Hurt, actor 
Does Alexander Technique help back pain?

Does Alexander Technique help back pain?

Does Alexander Technique help with back pain?

Alexander Technique can help manage back pain. The great news is that in most cases, the high-quality sensory learning that you complete in an Alexander lesson will give you the skills that you need to overcome back pain. Alexander Technique’s combination of educating postural tone and body schema is unlike any other approach. Here’s what you need to know.

How does Alexander Technique help?

Sometimes back pain can be a sign of a serious disease. That’s why we like you to see a medical practitioner for their diagnosis.

In most cases rather than significant disease, back pain can be linked to a functional mis-use of posture and movement. Where discs are damaged, nerves are entrapped, muscles are spasming, where there is degeneration-these are all indicators of mis-use.

Although not these symptoms are not trivial, people who are displaying them are often able to manage and reduce chronic pain using an Alexander Technique approach. I recommend that you watch this short video.

 

To a highly trained eye, the way that you stand, balance and move can provide indicators of conditions that either lead to back pain or exacerbate an already existing issue.

Often, people with back pain can be observed to be bracing their legs, torso, and neck. In an Alexander lesson, your teacher will show you ways to redistribute your weight and circumvent destructive habits that can lead to problem pain.

Alexander Technique is primarily a teaching method, not a treatment. What you learn can resource you to know how to take pressure off your injury site, avoid back pain danger in different situations and relieve pain through simple to follow procedures.

So many people bend at their waist. There’s no bending joint there! It will hurt you if you keep bending at the waist. This is especially so if you add lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling to the mix.  Your Alexander Technique teacher shows you how to bend down to the ground without creating dangerous conditions that contribute to back pain. However, this is not a run-of- the-mill manual handling training. Alexander Technique is practical sensory based learning that demonstrates some of the scope that your body has to move freely and efficiently without pain, strain or danger.

What you need to know about back pain

A large percentage of back pain is caused by destructive movement, poor posture and incorrect body mechanics (ie bending at the wrong spots in your body). It’s classed as chronic pain and can last for a few days, weeks, months or sometimes years.

Get your back pain checked out by a medical practitioner. Sometimes back pain can be an indicator of a serious underlying issue. Imaging will give you a good idea of what’s going on and then you can get on with getting over your back pain.

It’s common for back pain sufferers to be told that there is no visible damage on their x-rays or to be given vague diagnosis such as aging, degeneration, stenosis, calcification. Although this is good news, it’s also frustrating because the options for understanding and overcoming the back pain become muddied.

Back surgery-woah!! Do your research.

Although back surgery can seem like a simple and quick solution to your suffering, please consider that this incredible technology is not always the correct approach. Back surgery does not have the high success rate that one would expect.  Two large new Australian studies reveal these expensive spine surgeries – which can cost more than $50,000 – are having extremely poor outcomes and leaving some previously-healthy people so badly disabled they are unable to work. In fact only 19% of people returned to work after spinal surgery the study found. You can read it here.

Read a Sydney Morning Herald article on huge costs and poor outcomes from back surgery here.

 

Pain can come from muscles or nerves, it can be localised or shooting It can range from burning, dull ache to very sharp and electric pain. It is hard for people who aren’t experiencing your pain to understand what you are going through and how it is impacting all areas of your life.

Rescue position for immediate relief from pain

Your Alexander Technique teacher can show you a “rescue position” that you can use daily or even a few times a day.  It works quickly to help you regain a significant reduction in pain.

Alexander technique is an educational technique that you learn. It has a strong basis in science and anatomy, but it teaches whole bodymind unity rather than compartmentalising how humans work.

This means that if you have a bad back, your Alexander teacher will look at the entire range of your movement, posture and balance not just at the area that is in pain.

The Alexander teacher shows you things that you can do to change your movement.

The Alexander approach is unique. It teaches you to retrain your movement patterns for better overall functionality. Many studies have shown a more direct link between posture, body schema and cognitive, emotional and physical functioning than had previoujslsy been considered valid by conventional science.

Research

Alexander Technique has been taught for over 120 years with consistent anecdotal evidence of its positive impact for learners.

Over the last 70 or more years there have been numerous studies undertaken on Alexander Technique’s effectiveness in assisting people. Research is ongoing as there is no clearly understood mechanism to explain why AT is so successful. In some areas science is just now able to offer explanations for the efficacy of Alexander Technique learning.

Have a look at these studies for a scientist’s view of Alexander Technique

How does AT work-a new model 2020 paper just published. click here

Effectiveness of Alexander Technique for Chronic back pain sufferers click here

 

Does Alexander Technique help back pain?