University of York Research Finds Yoga Aids Chronic Back Pain
More good news for back pain sufferers and for complementary therapists! Another interesting research trial at the University of York, funded by Arthritis Research UK, has found that yoga helped people with back pain more than conventional GP treatment.
These results were then compared with the findings of the ATEAM Trial into treatments for chronic back pain (in which the Alexander Technique was found to be more effective than either massage and GP treatment) and it was found that:
‘The results suggested that the 12-week yoga group programme may improve back function more than exercise and manipulation, cognitive-behaviour treatment and six sessions of 1-to-1 Alexander technique, but not as much as 24 sessions of 1-to-1 Alexander technique’.
Interestingly, the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique Scientific Research Committee have pointed out that the ATEAM Trial also found significant reductions in pain experienced by the subjects having Alexander lessons, whereas the Yoga Trial did not report a significant level of pain reduction.
It is good that a body of research into the Alexander Technique and other disciplines is growing and that the findings are very encouraging and support our work as Alexander teachers.
As the comment below describes, people who just rely on drugs become habituated to them and then the drug don’t work. Learning techniques such as yoga and the Alexander Technique gives people tools that they can use throughout their lives to improve their body use and to lesson problems such as back pain.
‘A Modern Torture’ is how Polly Vernon describes the wearing and ‘Invasion of the Killer Heels’ in The Times Magazine on 22.10.11. It’s a excellent article to read, with graphic illustrations of famous women falling off their high heels in public.
You can see an X Ray photo of a foot coping with being in a stiletto here
As an Alexander Teacher, I have worked with several women who have back pain and problematic feet because of distortions in their posture which have mainly been created by wearing high heels continually.
The good news is, it is possible to undo a great deal of the damage, if women are willing to give up wearing high heels all the time and learn to use their bodies differently, by having Alexander Technique lessons
Fascinating Research Trial into Standing
Recently, I was delighted to be a research subject at the prestigious UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square London.
The research study, which is run by Prof. Brian Day’s Whole Body Sensorimotor Lab
is investigating whole-body actions and the neural processes that control them. Dr Tim Cacciatore is looking at the way Alexander Technique Teachers use our bodies when we move, compared with the way matched members of the public, who have never had any Alexander lessons
For the research, I was all wired up with infrared body markers on my arms, legs, spine and skull and signals from these were picked up by sensors as I moved. I also sat and stood on some force plates, that measured my force levels as I moved.
Gradually an outline of my skeleton appeared on the computer and I could observe the way I had been moving. Dr Cacciatore has already published some findings related to this type of research and it was fascinating to be involved. I shall be very interested to find out the results of this study when it is published. Watch this space for further info about this research trial.
This type of research not only increases our understanding of the Alexander Technique but its findings may eventually be used to help people who suffer from disorders resulting from damage to the central nervous system.
Information about a previous study by this research team may be found here
Research to Help Chronic Neck Pain
Another major research trial into the Alexander Technique has just started at York University, funded by Arthritis Research UK.
The 3 year randomised controlled trial will compare the Alexander Technique, Acupuncture and regular GP care in the treatment of 450 people with chronic neck pain. Once the results of the trial are available, it is hoped that this will enable recommendations to be made about the most suitable treatment/s for neck pain to be used within the NHS.
It is already known that both lessons in the Alexander Technique, or having some Acupuncture treatments can be effective in reducing problems such as neck pain but this has not been backed up by clinical research, so this is a very welcome study.
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement
For anyone who is interested in movement, the use of the body and in dance, there is a fascinating Degas exhibition on at the Royal Academy of Arts.
This exploration of Degas’ work looks deeper than the merely chocolate box images of ballet dancers with which he has tended to be associated in recent years. Early film and photographs such as the movement studies by Edweard Muybridge, which Degas may well have known, are also included in the exhibition.
On until 11 December
Tim Giles, award-winning Composer and Jazz Drummer – and now Alexander Teacher.
Tim Giles has just graduated (July 2011) from LCATT, the local Alexander Technique Teacher Training School where I am a visiting teacher. He is seen here playing at LCATT’s end of term party.Tim was one of my Alexander pupils before he joined the STAT recognised Training Course and it is great to see him qualify as an AT teacher.
I am pleased to say that Tim will be assisting me with the upcoming Short Intro Course in September – which means that participants will be able to have hands-on work both from myself and from Tim.
This introductory course is for a small group, so if you are interested in attending, please note that it is essential to enrol in advance.
Earlybird Reduced Fee is available if you pay before 30th August
Further info about AT Teacher Training can be found here.
Research shows that long working hours increases the risk of having a heart attack by a staggering 67%!
Now this is something that seems obvious to me as an Alexander Technique teacher but it is good to have some formal research published on the topic. There have been many occasions, unfortunately, when I have seen people overworking for long periods of time until they get really ill – in a variety of different ways it has to be said. At this point, they often have to stop work altogether for a while. But the good news is that they usually find that the Alexander Technique can be a very helpful tool to use to aid their recovery.
The lead researcher in this study of using information about working hours as a method of predicting heart attacks, Professor Kivimäki of UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, reports that people who worked more than 7-8 hours a day were 5% more likely to have a heart attack than people with a similar health background and heart risk level. Those that regularly worked 11 hours or more, increased that risk to a dramatic 67%.
Is working overtime really worth that level of risk?
The research suggests that Doctors need to include questions about work hours and lifestyle when assessing heart risk factors. It also encourages workers to look after themselves and to keep their working hours to around 7-8 hours a day.
Alexander Technique lessons can help people become more aware so they can modify the impact of overwork on their general health and wellbeing. Importantly, the Technique can help people avoid their own habits of overuse and misuse of their bodies, which can help the nervous and cardiovascular systems to calm down. As one consultant cardiologist put it:
‘The Alexander Technique is a realistic alternative to beta blockers in the control of stress-induced high blood pressure’.
Dr Bent Ostergaard – Consultant Cardiologist
Slouching and poor posture is the topic of an article in today’s Mail Online (24 Jan 2011) in which Bella Blissett urges women not to copy the stars on the catwalk, who can be seen in various distorted postures wearing a series of excruciatingly high heels (which in themselves can cause back problems – see my article on wearing high heels).
Research linking poor posture to depression and the fact that 1 in 5 people in the UK see their GPs for back pain is sited in the article. Various cures are suggested – but unfortunately the Alexander Technique is not mentioned, despite the fact that Blissett states that ‘many of them could be cured if they learned to improve their dynamic posture
so that they ‘ stand and sit properly’, which is a big part of what people learn when they come for AT lessons.
As the ATEAM Research Trial showed, the Alexander Technique really can help people to reduce chronic back pain and to improve the quality of their life.
Introductory Lessons and a Workshop just for Women
Of course, back pain and slouching are not only found in women, for many men have similar problems. If you would like to try out the Technique, introductory lessons
of one hour are available at the same price as regular 3/4 hour lessons -at the moment.
You might prefer to try out the Technique in a workshop just for women. If so, ask for an Application Form online for the upcoming Introductory Workshop for Women
on 6 March at 2.30pm. This is linked to International Women’s Day.
Please book in advance, as the workshop is for a small group.
You may also phone Hilary for more information: 020 7254 9206
James Allsopp’s Graduation
In July 2010, the composer and multi-instrumentalist James Allsopp, seen here at the end of term party, graduated as an Alexander Technique teacher from the London Centre for Alexander Teaching and Training, LCATT, where I am one of the visiting teachers.
James was one of my Alexander pupils before he joined LCATT on the STAT recognised 3 year Teacher Training Course. It has been a great pleasure to follow him right through to his graduation and I wish him well in the future.
The Department of Health has requested all GPs and Chief Nursing Officers to refer patients who are seeking to use a complementary therapy such as the Alexander Technique, to practitioners who are Registered with the CNHC, The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.
The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, STAT, has worked hard with the CNHC in order to bring about the voluntary regulation of AT teachers. The CNHC Register has been set up so that GPs and the public can see which practitioners, including myself, ‘have been assessed as meeting national standards of competence and practice’.
Hopefully, this will benefit everyone and prospective pupils can be reassured, if they need to be, that an external professional body, plus STAT, are monitoring our standards as AT teachers.