The Alexander Technique is well-known as a treatment for back pain. In fact, the best research on the subject to date (published in the British Medical Journal) concluded that ‘a series of six lessons in Alexander technique combined with an exercise prescription seems the most effective and cost effective option for the treatment of back pain in primary care’.
But does Alexander Technique actually treat back pain? I’ve been doing some DIY recently, and I’d like to use a simple analogy to suggest that the Alexander Technique does not actually treat back pain! What do I mean by that?
If you’ve ever used a jigsaw like the one in the image above, you’ll know that it has the potential to cause you a lot of pain. However, it also has various safety features such as a blade guard.
Would you say that the blade guard on a jigsaw treats pain? Likewise, would you say that the various steps you take before and during its use – such as wearing gloves and safety goggles, using a workbench or clamps and checking the location of the blade and electric cord – also treat pain?
Plainly, these would be silly statements to make. However, the relationship between the Alexander Technique and pain is pretty similar. The Alexander Technique is a preventive method which stops you doing the things to yourself which cause pain and injury. It is about the skilful ‘Use of the Self’ which is, incidentally, the title of one of FM Alexander’s most famous books.
If you’ve never considered yourself as an ‘instrument’ that needs some TLC in the way you use it, this can be quite a revelation. Simply put, if you ‘use’ yourself well, then the potential for pain and injury diminishes substantially.
This is the field of enquiry which Alexander opened up over a hundred years ago, and from which you can benefit today.