Alexander Technique and Chronic Pain

Students suffering from pain as a result of medical conditions like cancer, fibromyalgia, sclerderma and others can benefit greatly by reducing excess strain and tension and coming to a sense of balance.

RSI (Carpel Tunnel Syndrome), TMJ, disc and back problems, headaches, foot and knee pain and even some arthritis are often the result of “working against ourselves”, and can often be radically improved.

Students suffering from debilitating illness like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can often use this work to increase or maintain their functioning, or at least greatly slow the onset of symptoms, even in the face of a progressive diagnosis.

Recent clinical studies have shown that people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease needed reduced medications and functioned with fewer symptoms than they did at the beginning of the trial, even 6 weeks after Alexander lessons were stopped. More information on medical research on the Alexander Technique can be found on the www.stat.org.uk website.

A final note about pain…

In my experience, pain comes from three general sources:  a chemical, medical condition, such as cancer or arthritis; an external injury, like being thrown from a horse or in a car accident; or a functional misunderstanding – in other words, moving or ‘using’ yourself (usually unconsciously) in such a way as to bring about pain.  Interestingly, this misuse of the self is always an aggravating factor in the other two types of pain… so although the AT cannot cure illness, it can alleviate many symptoms to sometimes shocking degrees, and although it cannot take away the reality of damage, it can help a student stop further aggravating an injury and give it a chance to heal.

Shirley’s Story: Relief from Pain

December, 2000 – Five months ago I started learning something called the “Alexander Technique”. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t know if it would help me, but I took a gigantic leap of faith that it would and five months later the results I see are astounding.

Prior to starting I lived in a world of pain. Part of my pain was because of a disk problem in my back but much of it was because of my bad habits in moving that seemed to react in just the wrong way with the disk problem. As a result I was in constant pain all over my body.

I tried medication, I tried physiotherapy, I even went to a chiropractor. Drugs, exercise and bone manipulation, and I was still in considerable pain which seemed to get worse with each passing day, and I couldn’t relax. Simple tasks became problems. Sitting, standing, walking, reaching, washing the dishes, washing my face, and getting in the car. All created intense spasms and pain.

Then I read about Candace Cox and the Alexander Technique in a newspaper article. In the article she said that the Alexander Technique gives students the tools to help themselves. Her job was to help students figure out what they do that causes the problems, then learn how to stop doing it.

I felt that she was talking directly to me so I went for an introductory lesson. I went in pain and I was tense and tight all over. I left relatively free of pain and looser than I had been in months. What did we do? Candace put me on the table and then told me to tell myself that I didn’t need to do any work. The table was supporting me so I didn’t need to support myself. I felt somewhat silly telling myself all that stuff but slowly my body responded to my mental messages and Candace began to move my limbs. By the time I got off that table I felt relaxed for the first time in probably over a year.

She then showed me a way to seat myself so that I could get into my car without triggering spasms. Since I drove a car to her studio, I tried that immediately upon leaving and to my joyous amazement, it worked. For the first time in a long time I felt hope for a pain-less future instead of hopeless about a pain-filled future. As I was only 38 at the time, the latter possibility was extremely depressing.

That was only one lesson and it was by no means a miracle cure. For the last five months I have gone to lessons on a twice-weekly basis whenever possible. My pain-causing habits are slowly being uncovered and I am learning new tools to replace them. There are days when I am still caught in old pain patterns, but the times in between are lengthening. There are days when I am relatively pain-free.

I stand easier, I breath better, my heart rate has decreased, I am not as bone tired, my body and mind are relaxed, and here’s a happy thought: I think that my metabolism when digesting food has increased. I am more aware of the work that my body is doing and I can direct my body and mind more and more to making minor adjustments before the pain starts.

I am not sure that this would have worked as well with a different type of instructor. Candace tackles emotional as well as physical connections to pain and I have learned that my pain was as much a result of what my body was doing as what my mind was doing. Although she is instructing me, I feel very much that we are in a partnership with the same goal – my ability to move freely without pain.

 

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