Relaxing the Back (and Lungs) From the Inside Out

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • A few weeks back I had knee surgery. I wrote a post about my concerns having to do with adhesives that may be used during or after surgery as I have skin reactions with certain adhesives.


    Being clear with my doctors before the procedure was helpful: they didn't use any adhesives on or around my incisions, which was great. Annoyingly, I did have a reaction -- one big hive -- to the Ace bandage and had to remove it with 24 hours after the procedure versus the 72 they prefer. Ah well.


    Having any procedure with anesthesia with asthma and allergies seems a little extra dicey, at least for the person who's receiving sedation, etc. Luckily, my anesthesiologist had asthma himself! Yup, we chit-chatted about all things asthma and turns out we took the same medications as children (Theophylline, in case you were wondering).

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    For the past year or so leading up to the surgery for my knee, I had been experiencing back pain. Looking for non-medical, non-surgical ways to relax my tension in my lower back, I was introduced to the Alexander technique. From the Alexander technique web site: "[Alexander technique helps you to]...learn to soothe your own nervous system, release your own muscles and balance your own structure... the Alexander Technique is a way to heighten awareness of how you move and to better coordinate your body during activity, it helps you do specific postures, procedures or exercises with less strain and more comfort..."


    Recently, British research studies have shown: "Chronic back pain can be eased by teaching the Alexander technique, an alternative therapy involving learning better posture."




    As someone with asthma, knowing where to find the tension in one's chest, back, lungs and release it is an invaluable skill and tool.


    I completed three months' worth of weekly sessions, learning how to recognize hidden tension in my body, my posture, when I walk or sit and stand and learning how to actively release and relax the tension. I learned how to notice where I'm holding the most tension at any given moment and release it. You might be surprised how much tension you hold in various parts of your body for no reason at all other than habit or as a response to hidden emotional tension.


    Just now sitting at my desk, I can feel how I am holding myself up for no reason at all. My skeletal structure and my muscles hold me up, why am I adding extra force to what my body accomplishes naturally? I quickly realize that I am protecting my knee. Not "me," not consciously, but on a very deeply unconscious level my body is protecting the rest of me from putting too much weight on my newly-operated-on knee. So I'm sitting off to one side, listing in my chair, protecting the knee, and causing tension in the right side of my body: tightening my right gluts, leaning more heavily on my right leg, the right side of my neck is tense and I'm even clenching my jaw a little. Not good.


    What to do? Relax and release. Find the tension and release it. Let go of it.

  • I'm finding that even the beginning AT training I had has helped in many ways. Getting on the surgical table: relax. Coming home after the procedure, my knee swollen, stiff and my body compensating in all kinds of ways: relax. During PT, they ask you to find the muscle, tense and relax. Giving myself ice treatments I let release into the cold, let the knee relax.

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    What relaxation techniques do you use or find helpful? Please share them with me!


    See also:

    The Alexander Technique: Can It Help Your Asthma?

Published On: October 07, 2008