Pilates and back pain, the Alexander Technique

Posted on March 7, 2014

It is estimated that 80% of adults will experience back pain at some stage in their life. By taking simple measures, such as exercise and readjusting your posture you can reduce the chance of developing back pain. Advice once recommended that sufferers rest but it is thought that inactivity can lead to further implications and the prolonging of back pain. Sufferers who work to develop core strength, flexibility, posture, balance and overall strengthening of the body could help to manage their back pain.

The Alexander Technique explained

The Alexander Technique was created in the 1890s by Frederick Malthias Alexander.  A young actor, looking for a way to change his habitual pattern that caused him to misuse or strain his vocal organs. The technique can help to reduce the accumulation of stress, as well as physical and mental strain. By teaching specific self awareness methods it's said that students can learn how to use themselves when moving, resting and breathing.

It has become popular in the medical community as an effective solution for back pain treatment. Research by BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) concluded that, "One to one lessons in the Alexander technique from registered teachers have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain. Six lessons followed by exercise prescription were nearly as effective as 24 lessons".

The technique encourages people to become more aware of their habitual movements and in turn then become more conscious of their thinking process. By encouraging people to take part in their own treatment, their mind set is more open to change. This was the connection that brought the principles of the Alexander Technique to Pilates training. Once students have learned to dispel their bad habits of bad posture or reoccurring bouts of stress, this new frame of mind can be applied to Pilates to help continue to eliminate back pain.

Simplyhealth will be holding a hot Pilates class on 9 March to support its BackCare app, which you can download from the App Store for free on your smartphone. 

Related article: Hot Pilates: The benefits

Research sources:
BMJ research study: Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain

Research study published in STAT News: Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training

STAT research and reading: http://www.stat.org.uk/alexander-technique/back-pain

Alexander Technique overview: http://www.stat.org.uk/benefits/back-problems