by Joan Arnold & Hope Gillerman with Terry Zimmerer
I found the Technique to be so beneficial in alleviating my own condition that I have been referring some of my patients for Alexander lessons for several years. -Howard L. Rosner, MD, Director, Pain Management Service, The New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center New York, NY
Education, not treatment
If you suffer from chronic pain, perhaps you’ve sought out many approaches in a frustrating search for relief. Depending on your condition, you may have tried chiropractic, drugs, massage or surgery. Each of these treatments can play an important role in recovery. But the Alexander Technique’s unique contribution is education, offering you a way to reduce or eliminate your pain.
Did you know that your thought process can have a positive effect on your physical well-being? This is one of the skills you build with the Alexander Technique. In a series of private, individually-tailored sessions, you learn to sense the muscular tightening that naturally accompanies pain. You learn how to release that tension so that it doesn’t compound your condition. This new skill enables you to modulate or end a pain episode. You learn to use your mind to make subtle, profound shifts in your body.
Breaking the pain cycle
Pain is a signal from the body, information about where there is injury, illness or tension. It also triggers your body’s fight or flight response: muscles contract, breath shortens, heart rate rises, and your posture compresses, ready for action. Muscular tension also acts as the body’s anaesthetic. When muscles tighten, there is less sensation, but there is also less circulation and movement, which erodes the health of the tissues and, eventually, of the entire body. Continual pain is the ultimate distraction, draining your resources, limiting how you relate and function. It can often lead to anxiety, depression or disturbed sleep. No longer just the body’s response to a problem, it becomes the problem itself.
The Alexander Technique gives you a way to better understand how your body works. Through a course of one-on-one sessions with an Alexander Technique teacher, you gain a sense of control over your tension and stress responses. You learn to attend to areas of pain and reduce the muscular compression that compounds it. If the source of your pain is postural or muscular, the Technique may give you the means to eliminate it completely. You learn how to return your body and mind to balance. As you shift your entire system from a state of alarm to calm, you lessen your pain and give your body a chance to heal.
The skill of self-care
A proven form of self-care, the Alexander Technique helps you find long-term relief without the side effects of drugs or the physical cost of surgery. Because you activate the process on your own, you know how to perpetuate its beneficial effects, long after your sessions are over. In a 1988 British study of chronic pain sufferers, the Alexander Technique was chosen as the number one pain management method. A year after this study was completed, participants still chose it as the best way to reduce pain.
Once you have greater control over how you feel, your focus naturally swings to other areas of your life — to exercising, playing your favorite sport, going through a work day in greater comfort or savoring a long walk. Rather than tuning out the constant static of pain, you re-awaken sensation and access a new reservoir of energy and enjoyment.