If you suffer from lower back pain, you’re not alone. Lower back pain ranks only below the common cold as a leading cause of missed work hours by American workers. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as a quarter of all American adults will experience back pain over any given 3-month period.
While there can be a variety of factors leading to back pain, you may be bringing this pain on yourself simply by the way you sit, stand or bend at your job. If you’re reading this at work (or even at your desk at home), take a moment to become aware of how you are sitting.
Are your shoulders hunched a bit forward? Are you lacking lower back support? Are your legs stretched out beneath your desk? Also, consider the repetitive motions of frequent tasks throughout your day, or the times you lift too heavy a burden. Is there work-related stress causing tension in your neck and shoulder muscles?
Every year, Americans alone spend an estimated $50 Billion trying to find relief from back pain. Much of that goes towards pain-killing drugs and other “solutions” that never get to the root of the problem. But one technique first developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander over a century ago has proven to be a safe, cost-effective, and long-term solution to both treat and avoid future back pain.
F.M. Alexander discovered that poor posture and inefficient work habits are “learned” as a way to adapt to the demands of the workplace. The Alexander Technique restores balance, coordination and grace through the release of muscular tension and inefficient movement. You learn how to recognize, stop and adjust – to release and relieve stress in the neck, lower back and legs.
But knowing that you’re not sitting or moving right isn’t enough. Most people, when these poor posture habits are pointed out to them, sit more upright, lengthen the spinal cord and place their feet squarely on the floor. Then, over time, they revert back to their old posture. The old ways tend to feel “more natural” due to muscle memory. The Alexander Technique helps us “unlearn” these bad habits.
An Alexander Technique teacher will work with you at your workstation or wherever you perform your tasks, gently guiding your body so that it moves efficiently and effectively. Just as important, the teacher will help you recognize when you might be slipping back to old habits and how to make immediate corrections.
The Alexander Technique makes a wonderful compliment to ergonomic programs that many companies offer their employees. It builds on existing ergonomic workplace strategies by introducing an element of mental and physical awareness to improvements, reducing many of the risk factors behind pain and injury.
The Technique doesn’t require any conditioning exercises, specialized postures or any physical exertion at all. The basic principles are easy to learn and your instruction is personalized to your particular situation. Once mastered, it’s not unusual to discover the ability to apply it to whatever you do – work, play or any activity in between – and carry yourself with a greater sense of coordination and grace.
The Alexander Technique has been endorsed by physicians, health care professionals and scientists thanks to its track record of over 100 years successfully treating chronic pain, injury and even depression and anxiety If you’re interested in finding out if the Alexander Technique can help you, a good place to start is the website for the American Society for the Alexander Technique. It can provide you with useful information about the Technique and facilitate finding professional teachers in your area who have completed the 1,600 hours of study required to receive certification.
National Institutes of Health. Handout on Health: Back Pain. Jul 2010.
Little P, Lewith G, Webley F, et al. Randomised controlled trial of Alexander Technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain. BMJ. 2008; 337; a884
Written By: Updated: August 31,2010