Help for Back Pain


Back pain is one of the most common complaints in our culture. It is also something the medical profession has found almost impossible to treat successfully.

~Drugs may dull the pain for a while, but they run the risk of becoming habit-forming. They also dull other senses and fog our thinking. The drugs themselves can cause additional serious injury from side-effects.

~Surgery is painful and expensive, and more often than not, does not solve the problem. Those of us who appreciate the innate flexibility of the spine are aghast when surgeons fuse vertebrae into a fixed position. This may alleviate pain in that spot, but it has the great potential of creating pain elsewhere.

What, then, can help?

Barring an injury or structural anomaly, most back pain results from improper “use,” as F. M. Alexander called it. By “use” he meant how we are moving and thinking. Once you change these habits, the bodymind can heal itself, providing the “mis-use” has not gone on so long as to cause structural damage. Even after the structural damage is addressed through surgery or stem cell treatment, there is still the issue of what caused the pain in the first place. The Alexander Technique addresses this root cause so that the injury is less likely to recur or show up elsewhere.

How is this accomplished?

Through a series of lessons, the student learns to release certain “holding patterns” in the bodymind, Many of these are unconscious. Some are the conscious habits developed from instruction in posture or in some skill such as playing a sport or a musical instrument. The first step is for the student to notice these patterns of thinking and moving so that they become conscious. Then, by giving certain mental instructions (what Alexander called “directions”) to change our thinking and inhibit our old patterns, a new ease and freedom of movement and thinking emerges.

For example, there are ways to bend or squat that do not injure the back or knees. Once a student maps the leg joints (hip, knee, and ankle) and the feet, learns how these joints move, and puts this in the context of the poise of the head on the spine, much extra tension and effort falls away. In contrast to conventional instruction in these skills, the Alexander Technique addresses the bodymind as a unity: not only do you change your movement, but you do so by changing the way you think while doing the movement. This is why the Technique is so radically holistic and so different from any other discipline familiar to us in this culture.

If you or someone you know suffers from back pain, contact me for a free 30-minute demo. While learning the Technique takes more than a few lessons (and certainly more than 30 minutes! 😊 ), this demo can give you a “taste of the Technique” and how it works.


Sally Ahner

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