Alexander or Feldenkrais: Movement Therapy Can Improve Back Pain
If you moved more efficiently and with a better posture, would your back pain disappear? Well, some British researchers recently released some more evidence in favor of a movement therapy called the Alexander Technique for the treatment of back pain. For those who have not heard of the Alexander Technique, this is a type of movement therapy that helps to alter the way a person moves and performs tasks like sitting, walking, standing, or other types of movements. Alexander is just one method used to break bad movement habits; Feldenkrais is the other main type of movement therapy.
These movement therapies are favored by performing artists and athletes who seek to optimize the efficiency and fluidity of their performances. Both types are similar in concept, but very different in methods. Because of these differences, Alexander Technique seems better suited for the treatment of back pain than Feldenkrais Technique.
Historically, Alexander Therapy focuses on the relationship of the head, neck, and spine as the overall source of improved well-being. This improved spine posture forms the basic building block for improved, comfortable movement. In the recent British study, people had less back pain after receiving just 24 lessons to improve their posture using the Alexander Technique. This result is no surprise considering that spine alignment is critical to spine health, no matter what technique is being used to improve the posture. Perfect posture minimizes stress on the ligaments, discs, and muscles of the back. Alexander Technique is rooted in good posture, so it may be a back treatment worth your consideration.
On the other hand, the other major type of movement therapy, Feldenkrais Technique, does not directly focus on the spine posture. With this technique, students are verbally taught to become more aware of their body positions during spontaneous movement, usually done in a lying down position. As with the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais teachers seek to alter the habitual patterns of movement that lead to pain and injuries. But without the focus on spine posture, Feldenkrais Therapy does not seem to have an advantage over Alexander Therapy when it comes to treating back pain. Yet, some people might prefer the verbal cuing of Feldenkrais as opposed to the hands-on methods of Alexander Technique teachers.
If you want to improve the way you move, please keep these differences in mind when deciding between the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrias Technique. Either way, you cannot go wrong as long as you have a well educated teacher and you are a motivated student. Breaking bad habits and changing patterns of movement takes practice, patience, and perseverance. With the efforts of movement therapy, you too can climb out of a back pain rut.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.