Alexander & Chronic Pain

After a car accident at age 19, Lauren Hill developed chronic pain in her neck, shoulder and back. She went to the doctor and got some tests. She searched for somebody to fix her pain problem. She went through physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, acupressure and the like. Nothing helped long-term.

Six years later, Lauren’s mom heard about the Alexander Technique. Lauren then read a book on the Technique and found a teacher, who said, “You might be part of your problem.”

Lauren was taken aback. The teacher said, the way you’re using your body during the day, you’re contributing to the problem. You may be causing it completely. If you are willing to study your habits and how you go about daily activities, you might gain some control over your pain.

Lauren tells Robert Rickover: “She was saying, I’m not going to fix you, but we can work together and I can teach you how to help yourself. That began to change my mindset about my problem.”

“I started having three lessons a week. I had spent six years up to that point learning to ignore my body because it hurt so much. The first part for me was learning to pay more attention to myself. I hurt more at the beginning because I was beginning to pay attention to myself. If you have a habit and you want to change it, you first need to know you have it.”

“It took several months before I started to have some improvement. As I paid attention to myself, I was shocked at how much effort I put into everything I did such as scrubbing a toilet, chopping an onion, driving my car or working at my computer.”

Lauren Hill is now an Alexander Technique teacher. She works with people with chronic pain.

Lauren: “I say the Technique is for people who want it, not for people who need it. You have to be willing to take some responsibility for yourself and be willing to make some subtle changes.”

“Take the example of somebody who works in front of a computer and gets sucked in to their work. They’ll tell me they can’t do anything about it. Three hours go by and their neck hurts. They have to be willing to pay some attention to themselves as they work. We might talk about ways they put that into their routine. They put an alarm to go off or at the end of every page they’re working on, they give themselves a second to check in. If they’re not willing to pay attention to themselves, they can’t expect to change things. You have to be aware of what you’re doing before you can make a choice to do something different.”

“I’ve never met anyone who isn’t contributing to their pain problem by how they’re holding tension in their body or how they’re going about mundane daily activities such as brushing their teeth and sitting in a chair.”

Robert: “You have to be willing to devote some time and energy to noticing what you’re doing. Some people, even if they seem to benefit from the Alexander Technique, are not willing to make that commitment. You have to be willing to work on yourself and to be patient about the process.”

Lauren: “Take something like arthritis. The Alexander Technique does not claim to cure anything. It helps the student understand how they might contribute to the condition they have.

“If someone has arthritis, they might pull down on themselves as they go from standing to sitting, compressing on the joints, which will make movement more uncomfortable.”

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