Alexander Technique Can Help Neck Pain and Headaches

Neck Pain Research

The NHS website states that for long-term neck pain

‘lessons in the Alexander technique may lead to reduced neck pain and associated disability for up to a year or more’

This statement is supported by a major research trial into the Alexander Technique which was undertaken by York University, funded by Arthritis Research UK.  ATLAS was a randomised controlled trial, which  compared the Alexander Technique, acupuncture and regular GP care in the treatment of 450 people who had chronic neck pain for at least three months.
The findings showed that both Alexander Technique lessons and acupuncture sessions led to statistically significant and clinically relevant reductions in neck pain and associated disability, compared with usual care alone, at one year. Also shown, were improvements in mental health and self-efficacy, for both the Alexander and acupuncture groups.
You may read full details of the ATLAS Trial here:

An Alexander pupil’s experience of neck pain and headaches

The article below was written by one of my pupils. It is about her experience of reducing neck pain and headaches through having AT lessons with me.

Six Years of Suffering Regular Headaches

I went to see Hilary because of a long standing problem with my neck and shoulder. I have had occasional flair ups of shoulder pain for about 30 years. For the past 5 or 6 years I have been waking up in the morning with a headache a couple of times a month. At first I put it down to hypertension and stress but even when my blood pressure was controlled the headaches continued, occasionally developing into full blown migraines.

Last summer I went sailing in the Mediterranean. I had a wonderful time, swimming several times a day, though I was aware that holding my head out of the salty water whilst doing breast stroke wasn’t good for my neck. The morning after an uncomfortable night sail to Corsica I lay on my bunk in agony whilst the others swam. I had a migraine and pain extending down my arm past my elbow. When I returned to the UK there was some improvement but the morning headaches were now happening nearly every day and usually woke me about 3 or 4am. Gentle yoga eased the pain, but I was having to do it at 4am.

Just how DO I sit and stand?

My GP sent me to a pain management consultant who told me my shoulder blades were “winged” and should be tucked flatter against my back, and my spine was too straight, it should have more curve. I left the clinic feeling I no longer knew how I should sit or stand or hold myself.

A friend suggested the Alexander Technique. At my first lesson I found it hard to believe Hilary when she told me that I didn’t need to force myself into a different shape. If I relaxed and let my body do its own thing it would naturally fall into position. Her recommended 20 minutes lying on the floor in semi supine seemed to me like a very long time doing nothing much! However I was so exhausted with the 4am headaches I decided to give it a try.

Pain fades away with Semi-Supine Procedure and awareness during activity

When I woke in the night with a headache, instead of doing yoga I tried lying in semi supine. I began to realise that if I concentrated on releasing my neck and shoulders the pain faded. Soon I was managing to go back to bed and get a few more hours sleep. That spurred me on and I read everything I could find on the Alexander Technique, practised lying down at least twice a day and tried to remember what I learned about inhibition and use in the rest of my day. At first that seemed impossible but with Hilary’s encouragement I know now that it is gradually seeping into the rest of my life.

Swimming and sailing again

I’m swimming again, remembering to lengthen and straighten my back. I’m sailing again too, though I still need to work on remembering what I’ve learned when I’m out in a boat. I’m generally much more aware of how I’m using my back and if I’ve been giving my neck a hard time I can usually sort it out with spending a while in semi supine when I get home.

Now Headache Free!

Best of all I’m headache free – they just faded away. Thank you

Pat – June 2017