Alexander Technique and Back Pain
June 2000’s issue of New Age Journal has an article about back pain, citing the re-education process of the Alexander Technique as a valuable tool in back care. In May of 2000, the New York State Massage Board determined that the Alexander Technique does not fall under the scope of practice of any of the licensed professions in New York. It is clearer than ever before that our work is truly educational in nature, though it can have quite an impact on physical well-being. The technique is truly a body/mind tool.
When someone with back pain chooses to come for lessons, we have a useful tool to teach them. The Alexander Technique is not a replacement for medical intervention. It is a valuable addition to anyone’s skills for living (whether in pain or not).
To work with someone having back pain, I begin where I would with any other student: exploring habits. The Alexander Technique is a unique tool to learn to bring greater and greater efficiency and ease to the task of living by knowing how to identify overuse of muscles, mental and physical energy, and lessen that overuse.
With any new student, I am going to begin with the simple activity of moving in and out of a chair (chairwork). This is a rich “laboratory” in which to bring habits of thought and movement to light for a student and teach them how to interrupt those habits, allowing for new and more effective patterns to become available.
The process of learning the Alexander Technique asks the student to suspend their interest in being right. F. M. Alexander learned through his exploration that in trying to reason out a solution to his vocal problem (chronic hoarseness) he was using his sensation to tell him whether he was right or not. He was relying on his sensation to tell him he had the correct amount of muscle energy; the proper alignment; and the appropriate volume of voice to gain his end: reciting text. However, how he used his voice habitually had always felt right to him all along, and using his voice that way was how he had created his vocal problems to begin with. F. M. soon realized he would have to “ignore” sensation to find a solution to his self-created mis-use. That meant things would very probably feel wrong. So, I repeat: The process of learning the Alexander Technique asks the student to suspend their interest in being right.