Manage your herniated disc

Manage your herniated disc

Do you have a herniated disc?

It’s called a “slipped disc”, a ‘bulging disc”  or a “herniated disc”. It means pretty much the same thing, you have damaged the tissue that connects one vertebrae to another in your spine. This can mean anything from minor aches to very intense, crippling and life endangering pain.

In this blog, I’ll provide you with some good quality, simple-to-understand information and some ideas for what you can do.

First-go to your doctor or medical practitioner.

I suggest this as a first move because there are some instances (generally rare) where a herniated disc can have very serious and extreme health consequences.

Medical practitioners can quickly tell the difference between serious spine related issues and the more common variety of injury that afflicts so many of us. Symptoms such as loss of movement, loss of bladder or bowel control should be attended to by a hospital urgently.

A herniated disc is not an insignificant health event.   The problem is that there are no quick fix cures available. Surgery is extremely invasive and may not work. Cortisone washes give temporary pain relief but can not be used regularly because of their side effects.

What is a herniated disc?

Discs are the shock absorbers that sit between each vertebra in your spine bone. They are very strong and designed to bear large forces and load. Like all physical structures discs have a load limit. When the load placed on your disc is too great the structure of the disc can tear. The tear usually starts from the inside of the disc near the centre. The nucleus of the  disc pushed out through the tear and as shown in the illustration it can bulge up against a nerve root. This can create pain at the spine, in the surrounding muscles or in areas of the body that are fed by the nerve.


It’s important to treat the pain responsibly with prescribed pain killers, reduce the load bearing onto the injured disc and take time too allow the disc to heal itself.

Alexander Technique teaches you ways to reduce destructive pressure on the injured disc by bearing your body weight in a way that distributes the load evenly. It’s important to minimise bending in the torso without immobilising yourself. Alexander Technique can show you how to bend without further injury. Your Alexander Technique teacher will also demonstrate how active rest combined with Alexander Technique integrated movement can assist in calming the area of injury.

Alexander Technique isn’t therapy or cure-it’s education. The high quality information and instruction provided by your Alexander Technique teacher can be implemented for immediate relief  and prevention of re-injury. Continuing to understand your movement through lessons in Alexander Technique allows you to accommodate  your body’s natural healing. The area is permanenetly weakened by the torn disc tissue. This is why Alexander Technique instruction can be a crucial factor in educating you to manage the damage part so that it is not further compromised in your day to day activities.



herniated disc

Here’s a link to Judy Stern’s (AMSTAT-American Society for Alexander Technique) video on herniated discs, where she confers with a neurologist. Have a look.

Tip 3. Sciatica self-regulation with Alexander Technique.

Tip 3. Sciatica self-regulation with Alexander Technique.

Tip 3. Dealing with sciatica


Tip 3. Develop sciatica self-regulation and resilience with Alexander Technique.

Alexander lessons can assist you to overcome sciatica.

Alexander Technique is teaching based on self-organisation and awareness. You will learn many new ways to think about your movement and take off pressure.

Studies have shown that Alexander Technique is very helpful for people with chronic back and chronic neck pain conditions.

Thinking about your movement gives you the opportunity to find many easier ways of doing things.

Self-regulation and resilience

Look at the table in the next column. It’s possible learn how to self-regulate. That means less drugs, less time in pain. Alexander teaches you to harness your body awareness. By having lessons with a properly qualified teacher, you can develop great body management skills.

The video below will give you an idea of what’s involved.


By learning specific information about your body, its movement and posture you can prevent movements that irritate the sciatic nerve and the other lower back structures that are involved in low back pain.

Tip 3. Develop sciatica self-regulation and resilience with Alexander Technique.

The illustration above shows a schema of how people learn the Alexander Technique. Self-regulation through awareness is the outcome. Your teacher will assist you to become aware of those patterns that are obstructing your body’s self-organisation. You will be encouraged to experiment with new thoughtful strategies. As you progress, you will begin to understand how you can develop ease throughout your daily movement. Finally, you will be able to choose how to move in life, within any activity, easily by allowing your body to self-organise in the most effective and efficient way.

Discover your body's potential for freedom in movement !

Alexander Technique & Sciatica

Tip 2. Use your hip joints to avoid back pain red flags

Tip 2. Use your hip joints to avoid back pain red flags

Tip 2 Discover how to use your hip joints correctly

“I can’t walk or stand all day but also can’t sit all day.”

Did you know that most of the back pain suffered by the public is lower back pain? If you have lower back pain, it’s a red flag that something is going wrong with your bending, lifting and carrying.


avoid back pain red flags

Where do you bend from in your body? If you are pointing at or thinking of a place around your belt line, like the photo above, then you are probably bending incorrectly! It’s a big problem. Many people think that they bend from their waist. No. There is no bending joint at the waist. That’s a back pain red flag!! Keep bending there and it will keep hurting you.

Tip number 2 is “Find your hip joints avoid those back pain red flags.”

avoiding lower back pain red flags

Alexander Technique is about organising our movement differently. Sometimes, it’s worth going back to basic body mechanics to set your mind straight. You need to bend from your hip joint NOT from your waist. Unfortunately, many of us have gotten it wrong and then fixed that wrongness as a permanent pattern. We habitually bend at the waist. Are you ready to undo this pattern? You’ll need to find your hip joint and then you’ll need to remind yourself how it is when you bend at the correct place. The guy in the gif above is bending correctly. See how he uses his knees ankles and hip joints together.  It’s a good example BUT wait….don’t try and bend all the way to the ground like him until you are ready.

Let’s start in sitting.

Find a chair and sit on it. Stick your hand under your bottom and you should feel a big bone on each side. That bone is called the sit bone (ischial tuberosity). Even if you have a big bottom, you can still feel those bones. For some people, the sit bones are a big discovery. They’re called sit bones because they are great to sit on. See the second drawing. The sit bones are represented by the green section.

Alexander technique awarreness

Now you may not be sitting on your sit bones. You could be curling down onto the tail bone.

lower back pain

May I suggest you try, as an experiment, sitting on your sit bones? Keep your feet on the ground.

back pain red flags

    Now rock forward on your sit bones with your whole spine going with that motion. Doing that movement involves your whole body rotating around the hip joint. Can you feel how your pelvis rocks around your thigh bones?  That’s where your hip joints are.

    Does this help with back pain?  Yes, using your hip joints rather than your spine to bend ensures you won’t hurt yourself bending forward.

    back pain red flags

    Congratulations, you’ve found your hip joint. Using your hip joint, rather than your waist, takes a great deal of pressure off from your lower spine. Look at this short gif on bending to lift.

    bend correctly-avoiding back pain red flags

    How to do a “table” bend.
    Courtesy of Jenn Sherer | Spinefulness

    If you had trouble with that experiment, time to see an Alexander Technique teacher. They can help you recover your hip joints and relieve low back pain.

    Buy a Backsaver ® Cushion

    There’s only one place that you can buy your Backsaver, that’s here. They are a very popular head support for people wishing to benefit from semi-supine. Click to find out more….

    Tip 1: semi supine to prevent causes of back pain

    Tip 1: semi supine to prevent causes of back pain

    Tip 1  Address the causes of lower back pain

    with this tip

    address the causes of lower back pain

    Here’s a photo of Jane doing an Alexander Technique procedure called the ‘semi-supine’. Some people call this the ‘Rescue Position’. It’s called the Rescue Position for good reason. If you suffer from back pain, this procedure quickly gives your body an opportunity to reduce pain and rebalance. What are the causes of lower back pain? One of the major causes of back pain is compression load bearing. This position helps to relieve that very quickly, when done correctly. Many students of the Alexander Technique swear by the semi-supine as a way to reduce and manage chronic pain. It’s so simple that it’s ridiculous and yet, it’s a highly effective strategy. It’s our Number 1 tip. Do the semi-supine. Follow the instructions below.

    Our first tip is a brilliantly simple method for addressing lower back pain.

    Here’s what you must do. You’ll need to find a carpeted floor or use a yoga mat on a hard surfaced floor. A bed is too soft for this procedure. Don’t use a bed.

    You may have trouble getting up and down. If that’s the case, have a good upright chair close by that you can use to assist getting down and then up.

    Jane is using a Backsaver®. It’s a hard cushion with a wooden base to place under her head for support. I recommend that, if you don’t have a Backsaver®,  use some paperback books to place under your head for support.

    It’s not unusual to have some discomfort doing this procedure, at first, especially if you suffer from lower back pain. Your back may feel achy and may even click. After a few moments of lying, your back should begin to ease. If that’s not the case and you are very uncomfortable, cease the procedure and give Michael a call on 0448 406 881 during business hours.

    Lie on a carpeted floor for 10-15 minutes with your knees up. If you find that hard or painful you can rest your calves on a chair. Have some paperback books under your head supporting its weight.

    Fold your arms so that your hands sit on your torso. Just by lying on a firm surface you are giving your injury area time to heal and rest. It’s important to get back up to standing, safely and with support. Use a chair to help you get up.

    For more instruction and information watch this  short video on the semi supine procedure from my colleague Carolyn Nicholls. If you come for Alexander lessons, one of the first things that I will show you is how to do this procedure. Simple but very effective.

    Buy a Backsaver ® Cushion

    There’s only one place that you can buy your Backsaver, that’s here. They are a very popular head support for people wishing to benefit from semi-supine. Click to find out more….

    The Alexander Approach

    The Alexander Approach

    The Alexander approach to human functioning.

    The Alexander approach to teaching provides you with the opportunity for making choice within your movement and posture. Being consciously aware of your body in movement changes everything. The whole way that you function in the world has a different quality when you are using awareness to influence movement outcomes.

    Alexander addresses fixed patterns that have become redundant or destructive. It helps you to find adaptive variability in the way you move and balance. Adaptive variability is the ability to respond to rapidly changing contexts appropriately. This can lead to many positive outcomes.

    Movement and balance influence all the parts of our human body in an interdependent way. Consider your breath is movement, your blood moves, your digestion is a movement, the firing of the nerves is movement. Everything we do is based in movement. Alexander observed that movement is a fundamental ingredient in our emotional responses and in our thinking activity. His series of experiments and observation were designed to examine that fundamental inter-relationship.

    Reductionism, Holism and Emergence

    “Reductionism” is a way of looking at human health and wellbeing that is narrowly focused. Most modern medicine is reductionist.

    FM Alexander warned that reductionism failed to see the whole picture. In his view, reductionism ignored the fundamental integration of all the parts into a coordinated functioning whole person.

    Reductionism has led to some spectacular success and discovery in the field of medicine, science, and philosophy. One of the defining characteristics of this age is the massive improvement in lifestyle that modern science and medicine has afforded the world. The problem is that reductionist approaches can become blinkered. They can take a silo approach to human health and wellbeing. This can be alienating and, at times, negatively impactful.

    “Holism” suggests that the only way that you can completely understand a system is to look at the working of all the components together.

    In the 1890’s, FM Alexander was a gifted and astute observer who carried out long running experiments to validate his observations.  He was able to describe a holistic model of human functioning based on, what he called, “psycho-physical unity”.

    Many somatic therapies and educative technique ascribe to a psycho-physical model where posture and movement serve an integrating and coordinating role in wellness.

    Alexander’s 130-year-old observations are finding validation within modern neuroscience.

    Alexander Technique “emergence”.

    Alexander said,

    “The phrase ‘All together, one after the other” expresses the idea of combined activity I wish to convey.”[1]

    Emergence describes when a complete system is more than the sum of all the component parts. This new concept of complex systems suggests that when people learn the Alexander Technique that the benefits that they experience are more complex and variable than one would at first assume. An Alexander lesson may appear to be about movement, but, because there is a fundamental inter-relationship between all the parts, the Alexander learning that occurs for each individual may be of a far more profound and meaningful nature than may occur with simple exercise.

    Because of its complex nature, “psycho-physical re-education” provides a far deeper internal understanding and control than would at first appear likely. Learning Alexander Technique is neither mechanical nor linear because it affirms a complex emergent system of human functioning. This makes the experience of a simple movement class a profound experience for many Alexander students, making them consider a new idea of being a human that is aware, coordinated and present.


    Inspired by podcasts from Stefanie Faye “Mindset NeuroScience”

    and this book , “Thinking in Systems” by Donella H Meadows