Thursday, 24 November 2011

Alexander technique or Osteopathy for back pain

A question that is frequently ask to by me is "who is the best to person to see for my back pain, an Alexander Technique teacher or an Osteopath?". The most straightforward answer is that if there is something you are doing to yourself, that is causing your problem, then the Alexander Technique is the better choice. If there is a "structural problem", or a recent injury then Osteopathy is a better first choice.
  However, it is not always that straight forward. For instance someone may have a injury or structural problem requiring Osteopathic treatment. Due to this though, they may develop compensatory movement habits to get round the problem or pain. These movement habits may be continued when the original problem is gone. In time this can in itself start to cause problems. A common example is with back pain. Because the back is painful the person will "push with their arms on legs" to help themselves get up. When the pain is gone they may continue to do this. Another example is holding the back stiff and being scared to bend it. This is were the Alexander technique may help along side Osteopathic treatment.

Chronic or Acute Back pain
A chronic problem is one that been around a longer time (over 6 months) whereas a Acute is recent onset. Usually the Acute is more painful. If someone has an Acute back problem (they may be in muscle spasm) it is better to see an Osteopath at that stage. In chronic back pain the Alexander Technique come more into its own. With chronic back problems there is usually, in my experience a combination of structural (osteopathy) and functional (Alexander technique problems).

Car analogy - Structure and function
Sometimes a Car analogy is useful (the car is your body). The Alexander Technique will teach you how to teach yourself to improve your driving. If it is constantly driven "badly" damage will occur to parts. On the other hand, if say for example the tacking is out, it doesn,t matter how well you drive the tires will wear.

I have chosen the Alexander technique here as an example but the same principles apply to Pilates or the Feldenkrias method.

Chris Reynolds Osteopathy & Physiotherapy

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