This past weekend I attended an event entitled “Hidden Causes of Chronic Conditions: Solving the Puzzle,” which included as its main feature a panel discussion with some of the region’s top alternative therapists (all with traditional medical training or science/research backgrounds as well). They shared interesting information on holistic approaches to a variety of chronic conditions, and were very informative on many alternative and cutting-edge approaches that take into account the health of the whole person, not just the one symptom.
I was very impressed by their body of knowledge, and agreed with much of their assessment of the ways in which a purely traditional medical approach can fail in helping patients to actually be healthy. At the end of the afternoon members of the audience had the chance to ask questions. Unfortunately time was up before I was able to ask the question that seemed particularly relevant to me as an Alexander Technique teacher. My question would have been something like this:
“Do you take into consideration how someone uses their body – their posture/alignment or level of tension, for instance – and how that could affect some chronic conditions, such as back pain, breathing problems or gastro-intestinal issues?”
I could have demonstrated collapsed posture, showing how it not only effects the integrity of the spine, but also reduces and restricts breathing capacity and squashes the digestive organs. It seems to me that a method like the Alexander Technique, which teaches people to release tension and decompress the spine and body as a whole, could be a very useful tool to help alleviate some conditions.
In fact, in 2008 the British Medical Journal published the results of a large-scale back pain study which showed that learning the Alexander Technique had long-term benefits for people with chronic back pain. Even one year later, those who had 24 Alexander Technique lessons had an 86% reduction of days in pain compared with the control group.
As far as I know there have been no similar studies (certainly not large-scale) to investigate the possible usefulness of the Alexander Technique for breathing or gastro-intestinal problems. However, it seems like common sense to me that if a person is constantly in a collapsed state (which would decrease the amount of space for the lungs to expand and the ribs to move) breathing is affected. Similarly the digestive organs will be squashed together, which I can’t imagine would be good digestive health.
The way people use their body (their coordination, posture, freedom of movement) is a factor that is often overlooked, sometimes even by medical professionals who are otherwise working in a holistic way. I believe it plays an important part in our overall health and wellbeing, and I would have been interested to hear what the panel had to say.
So instead, I’m asking you the question!
Do you think posture, coordination and tension could be a contributing factor to some chronic conditions?
There will be another panel discussion on February 25. If you live in Wilmington, DE or the surrounding area, I encourage you to check it out. If the first one is anything to go by, it will be interesting, informative and well worth your while.