Category Archives: Posture

Fear & Stress Maintain Most Chronic Back Pain

I read an article last week published in Harvard Health Publications that caught my attention.  Recent studies have been fine that most chronic back pain is not associated with injury or disease, but more closely associated with our thoughts, emotions, and the behavior that follows.

There simply isn’t a close connection between the condition of the spine and whether or not people experience pain. Research has shown that a majority of people who have never had any significant back pain have the very same “abnormalities” (such as bulging or herniated spinal discs) that are frequently blamed for chronic back conditions. And then there are the millions of people with severe chronic back pain who show no structural abnormalities in their back at all.

On top of this, it turns out that people in developing countries, who do back-breaking labor and don’t have easy access to medical treatment, have much fewer incidents of chronic back pain than people in the developed world who sit in ergonomically designed chairs, sleep on fancy mattresses, and have ready access to spinal imaging, surgery, and medications.

                                                                               -“Mind Over Back Pain” Harvard Health Publications, Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.

The article goes on to say that clinicians and researchers have been looking into the psychological causes of pain and in a landmark study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that both mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are both effective solutions for relieving chronic back pain.

 

This thrilled me as an Alexander Technique teacher.  When a client comes to me for Alexander Technique sessions due to back pain, there are often some surprising revelations that a back pain sufferer discovers.  Often, the development of the kinesthetic sense, or body awareness, gives my clients the ability to observe painful patterns of tightening and tensing muscles, destablilizing their posture and holding their breath in response to pain.  The tensing of muscles and holding of the breath worsens the pain.

 

Then also become highly aware of their emotional response to pain.  Frustration, fear, worry, anger, despair are all emotions that Nervous Wrecklead to chronic clenching of the neck, jaw, fists, chest, upper back, and abdominal muscles.  The clenching of these muscles leads to more pain.  (There has been a study published that demonstrated that Alexander Technique and acupuncture unravel neck pain as well)

 

In Alexander Technique sessions, we even start to identify habitual emotional responses to pain.

 

So many of my clients get angry at themselves when they are in pain.

Anger leads to more clenching.  More clenching leads to more pain.  Becoming aware of emotions like anger and aware of the impact anger has on the body is essential for releasing the emotions and releasing the body.

There have been numerous clients who, once they release the musculature around the belly, low ribs, and diaphragm, they cry deeply and loudly.  I encourage the crying and the emotional release.  Letting go of old emotions that get stored in the body leads to pain relief, stress relief, and complete liberation of breathing.  It takes an extraordinary amount of muscular effort to hold these emotions in the body.

The Harvard Health article recommends reading books about mindfulness and CBT or visiting a pain clinic where they are offered.  You can also look into the mindfulness training of Alexander Technique during which you become highly aware of your body and your body’s responses, and then, learn how to release those painful patterns and calm your SELF, you nervous system, and your musculature.

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You are Sitting Too Much and It’s Killing You

On average, most of us are sitting about 9.3 hours a day.  Unfortunately, sitting this much has many negative side effects.  I often tell my Alexander Technique clients that these bodies we live in are not built for sitting in one position for hours at a time, but are designed for moving.

 

IMG_0148sm-225x300With the rise of the computer and smart phone and driving in traffic, we have even more reason to passively sit when we are done with work.

 

I teach my clients how to sit well when they are at the computer or at a desk.  However, no matter how well you sit, sitting as much as we do, we are inevitably hurting ourselves.
One of my clients who came to me for back pain, sent the video you see below. This video demonstrates how we are built for moving and describes what happens to you not only your spine but also your brain when you are inactive.


(Lesson by Murat Dalkilinç, animation by Oxbow Creative.)

IMG_2384

 

Lessons in the Alexander Technique, can help you sit well with a long supported spine. Your diaphragm, ribs, and lungs can move easily with your breath. You are no longer compressing your internal organs.  Most importantly, you also learn to listen to
your bodies’ signals telling you to get up and move.

Another client of mine, who works at the computer, believed that something was wrong with his back and neck because he couldn’t sit at his computer for hours at a time without feeling like he needed to move. I reassured him that, since he is paying more attention to his body and hearing his body’s signals to get up and move, his body and kinesthetic sense were improving, giving him more accurate information about what his body needs.

 

Too much sitting is also associated with diabetes, heart disease, electrical activity cutting off to your legs, fewer calories being burned, and much more.

 

So please… Notice how much time you spend sitting.  Listen to your body when you feel like you want to move.  It’s the only body you are ever going to get.  Sign up for “5 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress” 

 

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Is Aging Affecting your Walk? Walk like you are young again

Recenlty, a study was published in The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies that compared older Alexander Technique practitioners to other age-matched adults.

 

In summary,

“The Alexander Technique (AT) seeks to eliminate harmful patterns of tension that interfere with the control of posture and movement and in doing so, it may serve as a viable intervention method for increasing gait efficacy in older adults. The purpose of this study was to compare the comfortable pace gait kinematics of older AT practitioners with those of healthy, age-matched controls. Participants were six licensed AT practitioners and seven healthy age-matched controls between the ages of 63 and 75. During the stance phase, AT participants exhibited significantly greater ankle stance range of motion (ROM) and plantar flexion at toe off, as well as lower ROM of the trunk and head compared to controls. During the swing phase, the AT practitioners had significantly increased hip and knee flexion and a trend toward significantly increased dorsiflexion. The findings suggest that the older AT practitioners walked with gait patterns more similar to those found in the literature for younger adults. These promising results highlight the need for further research to assess the AT’s potential role as an intervention method for ameliorating the deleterious changes in gait that occur with aging.”

I have witnessed so many of my clients who older and wiser, completely change how they walk, sit, stand, and move through life.  Before they took, Alexander Technique lessons, they walked with their head forward of their spine, their chest compressed, and their leg joints stiffened.

Alexander Technique lessons give you the “tools” to unravel old patterns of tension and movement that have you walk like you are much older.  Aging does not have to be a sentence to hunching over and stiffening your body.  My clients have freed up their breathing, relieved back pain, and opened up their posture.  All of which has impacted their confidence.

 

Walking like a young person doesn’t require a fountain of youth.  It requires mindfulness, awareness, and training.