A technique often used by actors to reduce tension and increase poise can lead to a long-term fix for everyday people suffering from chronic back pain, according to British researchers. In their study, a few classes in the Alexander technique, which focuses on posture and movement, were more effective for back pain suffers than conventional treatment, massage, or exercise.
The study’s 579 chronic back pain patients were randomly assigned to either normal care under a physician, six sessions of massage, six Alexander technique lessons, or 24 Alexander technique lessons. Half the people in each group were also told to exercise at home, and received follow-up counseling from a nurse. The groups who tried massage, exercise or Alexander Technique lessons all reported a decrease in back pain at the three-month mark. But after a year, only those who took the Alexander lessons still felt better. And those who took just 6 lessons and exercised fared about as well as those who received 24 sessions (with or without exercise).
Learning to sit, stand, and move correctly seems to be a long-term way of coping with the back pain, one of the top reasons people go on disability. And if it helps back pain sufferers avoid medication, this strategy not only lowers the risk of drug side effects, it also keeps that medication from finding its way into the waste stream and our drinking water. Want to try it?
• Click here to see if there’s a qualified teacher in your neck of the woods. Prices for Alexander technique lessons vary, but expect to pay about $60 a pop. You could also check out the many books on the subject, though this study only focused on in-person lessons.
Wear loose-fitting clothing to class and enjoy yourself. "One of the most surprising things that students find is that they don’t have to work so hard," says Mary McCann, Certified Alexander Technique Teacher. “In a supportive atmosphere, you will learn practical skills to gain more freedom and ease of movement.”
"Many students report an increased sense of lightness, and more comfortable, pleasurable movement after an Alexander Technique lesson,” McCann adds.
• While you’re searching for a class, try to be as active as your discomfort will allow: Studies show that activity is better for a bad back than being bed-ridden.
Published on: September 29, 2008