IS COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE PUSHING THE ENVELOPE OF PRACTICE?

The Alexander technique is a form of complementary and alternative medicine (abbreviated to CAM) that is used to treat back pain and improve posture. We all are guilty of slouching, as we spend an inordinate amount of time sitting down. Not sitting straight could lead to chronic back pain, and until 2008, conventional methods were used to treat back pain. For low back pain that is not acute or severe, an over-the-counter medication may be helpful. Acetaminophen (eg: Tylenol) is commonly used to reduce body pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help ease inflammation, a common cause of neck or back pain.  Spinal injections, which deliver drugs directly to trigger points, and back bracers, used to straighten the back, are other ways of treating back pain. However, a revolutionary, groundbreaking study in 2008 suggested that all of these conventional methods were subordinate to the Alexander technique, with regards to efficacy.

The study showed that after a year of treatment patients in the study receiving normal care, such as massage, endured 21 days of back pain in the previous month. However, those who received 24 lessons of Alexander technique experienced only 3 days of back pain – a stark contrast. The Alexander technique has a great emphasis on alleviating tension in the body and on making sure patients use forgotten muscles or muscles that are not active as often, and reduce use of overused muscles. By delivering a balance, Alexander technique has been praised for its holistic approach, as there is a more comprehensive review of the back pain.

Even though it is now regarded as more effective than conventional methods, Alexander technique does have flaws, with the main one being that the NHS does not offer it as part of public health services, and thus consumption of the Alexander technique can only be done privately. This raises costs for the patient, but it also means there is an underdeveloped research culture regarding this technique and many other CAM therapies, as research depends on private investors, rather than government funding.

Another use of the Alexander technique is to treat Parkinson’s disease, which is symbolic of old age. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition when you feel stiffness, inflexibility and it has links to insomnia and anosmia (loss of sense of smell). There is no cure, and conventional treatments are limited to physiotherapy, medication and in extreme cases, brain surgery. The Alexander Technique offers people living with Parkinson’s self-management strategies that can help them gain more control of movement patterns, with potential improvements in balance, posture and walking.

Photo Credits due to: https://www.chronogram.com/hudsonvalley/inviting-ease-with-the-alexander-technique/Content?oid=2814401

Lahul Vijayanathan