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.

Yoga and semi-supine

Yoga and semi-supine

Yoga and semi-supine

In yoga it’s called “savasana”. In Alexander Technique it’s called “semi-supine” or “constructive rest”. There are many similarities between the savasana pose in yoga and semi-supine.

Savasana has the outward appearance of something easy and yet it is described by some as one of the most difficult poses to master. At the heart of the matter is the meditative state required to completely let go of physical tension and the mental tension that accompanies it, while still remaining present and aware in the moment.

Proponents of the Alexander Technique use a version of this pose to cultivate a neutral state of balance and poise, enjoying a presence in the moment that flows into movement as well.

Semi supine

We call it ‘Active Rest’ or ‘semi supine, a daily practice of awareness and self-care, which is particularly beneficial for sufferers of back pain.

The semi-supine position maximises sensory feedback through full contact of the head and torso with a firm, flat surface. This feedback helps to build up kinaesthetic awareness of the width, length and depth of the spine as the core structure that is so vital to balance in movement.

You may be familiar with a popular, but often misunderstood, idea that we are about an inch shorter in height in the evening than in the morning. This has some basis in a specific physiological process at work in the spine and which semi-supine can counter to our benefit. The intervertebral discs are a remarkable part of the larger strong and beautifully integrated structure of the spine and have a unique ability to absorb and hold fluid – up to forty times their own volume! During four or five hours of being upright, however, this shock absorbency system is gradually compromised as fluid is pressed out of the discs, resulting in less cushioning between the vertebrae.

Spending fifteen to twenty minutes in semi-supine allows the load to come off the whole spine and gives the discs the time they need to fully rehydrate. This means our spine gains a slight increase in overall length, letting us enjoy our full height and our buoyancy in movement at any time of the day.


In both yoga and semi-supine the benefits of a lengthening spine go further. A spine without undue compression is also our pathway into the healthy operation of our Automatic Postural Patterns or APPs. APPs refer to involuntary muscular activity that facilitates voluntary movement. APP’s help to reorganise soft tissue surrounding our bones so that the muscular work of both supporting and moving parts is distributed evenly and appropriately throughout our whole body. Whenever a movement is sensed as light, easy, effortless – that’s when your Automatic Postural Patterns are at play. The desire to trigger the APPs by lengthening the spine in Active Rest explains some of the recommendations for the practice. 



Firstly, the addition of a head rest of some kind is used to foster an easy relationship of the head with the torso, gently allowing for the natural curve of the cervical spine and avoiding over-straightening the neck. The balancing of the head in relationship to the spine is crucial to ensuring that neck muscles are free to release from attachments on the skull itself right through to their attachments to the collar bones and other parts of the arm structure and ribs. The plumping up of the intervertebral discs, as described above, spaces out the articulations of the ribs with the vertebrae opening the way for full rib excursion, deepening the experience of the breath. The arms themselves are positioned palms down on the abdomen, elbows releasing gently out to the sides. This facilitates an expansion through the upper torso and shoulder girdle from side to side and from front to back. It makes any pulling back of the shoulders (and as a consequence, narrowing of the back) less likely. Resting the palms on the abdomen and the contact of our back with the floor also draws our awareness to the movement of the breath.

In semi-supine we ‘listen’ with our feet on the floor, enjoying a dynamic balance between hips, knees and ankles. The soles of our feet, with their large number of sensory nerve endings, play an important role in the operation of APPs. They sense the detail of the surface we are in contact with, as well as telling us about the relationship of our leg joints. This information is then sent to our central nervous system where it becomes integrated with signals coming from the rest of our body and guides the body’s determination of easy balance throughout our system. Remembering to include our ‘listening’ feet is an essential part of achieving healthy functional motor patterns.


Semi-supine offers the benefits of ease and improved alignment before or after yoga asana practice and can be used independently as a regular meditation to promote integrated movement and functioning. The combination of both physical and mental rebalancing offered by this pose can enhance the moment-to-moment quality of our everyday movement and our life. There are some differences in approach between savasana in yoga and the semi-supine, but the wisdom is that there are benefits to be had from doing one or both.

Alexander Technique for Back Pain- 3 Top tips.

Alexander Technique for Back Pain- 3 Top tips.

Blue Mountains Alexander Technique
Blue Mountains Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique for Back Pain. Back Pain Management Top 3 Tips.

Are you struggling with discomfort and pain? You’re not alone. Over 4 million people in Australia or (16% of the population) reported that they experienced back pain. 1 [see graph below]

A significant percentage of back pain occurs to people in their lower back. The initial injury often relates to the way people bend, carry and lift weight.

Number of people who self-reported back pain in Australia by age group.

Unfortunately, many people have a recurrence of pain incidents whenever their lower back is irritated by bending or carrying.

Apart from the pain, that can be debilitating, the condition is exacerbated by not knowing why it is occurring; not having a clear treatment option; not knowing how many activities will have to be cancelled or missed out on because of the back pain.

Surgery, such as disc fusions, do not have a high efficacy rate and some people can find themselves at the same place or worse post-operation.

When back pain sufferers apply the Alexander Technique, a large percentage consistently report reduction in pain.2

The low-cost and non-invasive nature of Alexander Technique make it a viable option for people to try before undertaking the cost and invasiveness of major surgical intervention.

If you are struggling to make the bed, tie your shoes, sit and stand-why not find about the Alexander Technique?

Over the years I have worked with many hundreds of back pain sufferers. Almost all of them bend incorrectly. Most have very poor information about their spine and their back muscles. Most are over strained in the way they use their legs.

Although addressing these issues takes some time, because habits are hard to change, it can be a highly effective approach to management.

 Ron Thomas from Blaxland had chronic neck pain for many years.

He says, “Once I became aware of my movements and my ability to make conscious decisions on how to move my neck pain eased. I have been pain free for some time now.”

Have a read of some of the material on this web site. Then why not come and have a first Alexander consultation. You might become yet another person who has been able to manage crippling back pain by applying constructive thoughtfulness to your movement.

Get access to our free easy to follow tips. Use them today!

Follow the link below for access to three useful tips that you can use to manage neck and back pain. Alexander Technique can be helpful for a range of chronic conditions such as:

      • Sciatica
      • Frozen shoulder
      • Back and neck pain
      • Tennis elbow
      • Repetitive strain injuries (RSI)
      • Carpal tunnel syndrome
      • Scoliosis
      • Tension headaches and more

Alexander Technique for back pain relief

Try these Alexander Technique & Back pain links

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.

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.


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?