The Alexander Technique, Fibromyalgia, CFS and Musculoskeletal Balance: Part 1
by Dr. Mark Shaw
In this article I do not want to repeat all the information on the internet about the history of FM Alexander and how he developed his techniques.
What I do want to concentrate on is precisely how The Alexander Technique can be used as part of an adjunctive strategy along with other techniques, with respect to alleviating your Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms.
All the techniques I detail have a way of dove-tailing into each other and symbiotically deepening the effects of each other.
Basically, my angle on the Alexander Technique is that I want to take what I need from the techniques and apply them directly to assist with the musculoskeletal problems that are maintaining patients Fibro and CFS symptoms.
Bottom line: There is a way of moving that your body likes and a way that it doesn't.
When you have an injury or imbalance there is a way of moving that helps the body heal and a way that prevents it from healing.
All musculoskeletal conditions have varying symptoms and present in different ways, but all have one thing in common, they can all be made better or worse by the way you align your head, neck and trunk as you go through the movements and postures of your every day life.
The muscles which support your skeleton are usually asked to work far too hard for the task or tasks that they are being employed and over time this can lead to them becoming "stuck" in this state of excess tension aka Trigger points. These may gradually worsen over a period of years.
When you are then attacked by whatever initially triggered what you consider to be the "recognized" start of your life with Fibromyalgia/ CFS, then if your muscles were already habitually in this state of excess tension, then post infection, one of your main symptoms will then be the muscular pain.
When you go on to present at your chosen healthcare provider, you will be labelled more towards Fibromyalgia rather than CFS and you will be tested via the trigger point methodology.
Your primary diagnosis will be Fibromyalgia as oppose to CFS.
Let me make one point clear that is an over-riding theme through all the therapy that I outline: Your body has an innate capacity to heal itself, but as human beings in Western Society we are hell bent on destroying everything that nature has taught us and switching to unnatural modes of action simply because its fashionable or that is the way everyone else does it, or that's the way things are made and manufactured etc.
Look at toddlers when they first sit up and stand, look at the perfect alignment of the head neck and torso, and look at the ease and grace with which they move. All humans are born with this grace and poise and we "choose" to unlearn it as soon as we can possibly start copying moody slouching, ill postured teenagers and adults.
Take the simple act of sitting in a comfy chair that maybe 200 million Americans are doing right now as you read this. The reality is that that chair is NOT COMFY just because it says so on the manufacturer's label!
The typical slouching position that people are forced to assume on a daily basis is absolutely against all the natural laws of correct posture and alignment of the spinal column and results in these millions of people holding their body in a state of excess tension for all the time that they actually believe they are "relaxing".
In third world countries where natural posture is forced in daily lives due to the unavailability of "comfy" sofas, "bad backs" are relatively uncommon and unsurprisingly so is Fibromyalgia and CFS as defined by Western Society.
Fibromyalgia and CFS are largely diseases of modern "civilized" society. We have evolved through the industrial age in a few hundred years.
But by comparison, it took millions of years of evolution just for our body to become bipedal.
Take the "comfy" sofa example again. What are manufacturer's criteria in designing and building this item? The real design specifications are that it is more fashionable than the competition; it can be made more cheaply than the competition so the mark-up and profit can be higher from each sale.
Do not for one minute believe they are sitting round their brain-storming coffee mornings saying "lets design a sofa so our buyers can relax in a natural position, realign their faulty posture and avoid muscular tension."
If this was the case the comfy chair would not exist in its current form.
Another example of the misuse of our body forced upon us by tradition and the manufacturers design specification is the W.C.
In terms of passing a motion comfortably this piece of furniture is absolutely wrong and causes a requirement for a huge amount of pressure to be applied by the lumbar area in order to expel a motion.
In a later article I will be diagramming the changes I recommend for sitting posture and using the W.C.
You may not initially be overwhelmed by what I recommend, but your body will.
I am not a qualified Alexander therapist, this takes four years of training and so I recommend that you seek a trained therapist in your area, but not until 6 months after you have begun the core therapy.
What I recommend is that you employ the simple strategies I outline in my next article which will present quick wins in terms of your overall musculoskeletal anomalies.
I have talked about the musculoskeletal anomalies inherent in Fibromyalgia and CFS sufferers and how they are responsible for maintaining your illness.
You may be suffering from recurring musculoskeletal pain but do not know exactly what brings on the attacks. Often it is years of poor postural habits which are causing your musculoskeletal imbalance, and we need to address how to change these habits.
Examine the facts
Arthritic symptom severity can be reduced by postural habits, keeping the joints moving.
Spinal surgery or a disc problem can be helped by learning to use the abdominal and back muscles correctly.
General Back pain can be helped by correct movement as oppose to just bed rest
Pinched nerves in the neck or lower back are usually the result of compression due to faulty postural habits.
The first thing we need to learn is to reduce overall spinal compression as this will reduce the flare-ups of musculoskeletal pain which are contributing to your overall experience of Fibromyalgia.
As you are no doubt aware, when you are in more pain, your sleep is affected and therefore so is your fatigue CFS.
Using your body correctly results in less pain, improved healing, better sleep, less tension and therefore less fatigue. Sound good?
If you doubt the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique look at it from this angle.
Modern medicine and modern science are in no doubt about the following sequence of events.
Stress causes anxiety. The emotion anxiety produces an excess of the chemicals cortisol and adrenaline which are known to cause ulcers, high blood pressure and tension headaches and that's just in the short term.
Nobody doubts that the conscious mind can be utilized to interfere with these thought processes, and similarly with skeletal muscles, the mind can attain precise conscious control over the way they are used to restore and improve overall health
That is all we are going to focus on by using the Alexander Technique.
Alexander's approach to musculoskeletal pain
Alexander's approach tries to address the totality of a body. This means that in solving a specific problem, i.e. a problem that may occur in one area of the back. This cannot be healed unless the entire back is used in a well integrated way.
Being aware of, and able to control our supporting musculature. Alexander understood this and teaches how to control gravity and work with it rather than against it. This is essential for people with recurring back pain
Learning to do less with the body overall. This is an important feature of Alexander's work with respect to back problems. This doesn't mean just being lazier, but rather eliminating unnecessary muscle tension and bad postural habits at the root of back pain
I cannot express the importance of this to Fibromyalgia sufferers; in so many Fibromyalgia patients the tension cycle is what exacerbates their trigger points.
Pain causes more tension which in turn causes more pain and so on. By learning to short circuit the pain cycle they can prevent a flare-up of fibro without having to resort to muscle relaxants and painkillers, also they don't waste the little energy they have on unnecessary muscle tension.
In the next article I will focus on Alexander's concepts of "good use" and then the specifics of how they can be applied in everyday life to help Fibromyalgia and CFS patients reduce their musculoskeletal pains.
The Alexander Technique, Fibromyalgia & CFS: Part 2; End Gaining and the Four Concepts of Good Use
Fibromyalgia, CFS, and the Alexander Technique: Part 3: Implementing the Four Concepts
Fibromyalgia, CFS and the Alexander Technique: Part 4. Inhibition and the Four Concepts
Dr Mark J Shaw. Mark is the author of a new digital book and training manual Beat Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" http://www.BeatFibroAndFatigue.com Mark also publishes in a regular blog at: http://www.BeatFibroAndFatigue.blogspot.com
Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique