Lessons & Benefits

How can Alexander Technique help me?

BMJ Back Pain Clinical Trial

Our college ran the pilot phase of the BMJ (British Medical Journal) clinical  trial that clearly demonstrated one-to-one Alexander technique lessons are an  effective way to manage back pain.

Significant long-term benefit for  low back pain has been demonstrated by a major study published by the British  Medical Journal on 20th August 2008.

Visit the British Medical Journal website to read the  research

Economic evaluation of the research published in the  BMJ, Dec.11 2008

  • 24 AT lessons proved to be most beneficial
  • Six lessons followed by exercise were about 70% as effective as 24 lessons
  • Long-term benefits unlikely to be due to placebo effect
  • Lessons were one-to-one, provided by experienced STAT teachers
  • This was a scientific randomised controlled trial

§ 579 patients with  chronic or recurrent low back pain; 144 were randomised to normal care, 147 to  massage, 144 to six Alexander technique lessons, and 144 to 24 Alexander  technique lessons; half of each of these groups were randomised to exercise  prescription.

What were the main  results of the trial?

1. The best results were seen in the  24 AT lesson group, with important improvements in function, quality of life  and reduction in days in pain. One year after the trial started, the average  number of activities limited by low back pain (the RM disability score) had  fallen by 42%, and the number of days in pain was only three per month,  compared with 21 days in pain in the control group.

2. The massage group’s three  month improvement in the disability score was not maintained; days in pain (14)  were still less than the control group (21 days).

3. Since the effect of massage on  the disability score was no longer significant by one year, but the three month  beneficial effect of 6 AT lessons was maintained, the authors concluded that  the long-term benefits of taking Alexander Technique lessons are unlikely to be  due to placebo effects of attention and touch and more likely to be due to  active learning of the technique.

The results show that taking AT  lessons can have a long-term beneficial effect, significantly decreasing days  in pain and improving the functioning and quality of life of patients.

Private Lessons with Carolyn Nicholls

I was trained by Walter and Dilys Carrington to teach the F. M. Alexander technique at the Constructive Teaching Centre in London. In addition to my private practice I run a teacher training course in Brighton (see teacher training course) and I teach postgraduate studies all over the world (see my personal details).

I have been teaching all sorts of people for nearly 25 years; people with back pain, horse riders, and teenagers with scoliosis, musicians, computer users and singers.

In lessons I teach people to ‘unlearn’ bad habits such as unconsciously gripping neck and jaw muscles and so tugging their heads downwards into their body. This often results in slouching and twisting and consequent pain and problems.

Alexander discovered that ‘Use affects function’, meaning that if you are using tour body badly, squashing yourself with tension, its hardly surprising that you’ll be interfering with your breathing and digestion.

I use simple activities such as sitting, standing, walking and lying down which although seem simple demand co-ordination of your head, neck and back. If you can improve this co-ordination you can apply it to other aspects of your life, from driving a car, playing sports, musical instruments, or yoga and other such activities.

Learning to use your body and mind as a harmonious whole will give you management tools for whatever ails you. It is a wonderful self-help technique that puts you back in control of your own body.

Over time your lessons will make you more aware of your tension, so you’ll notice yourself when your neck has stiffened up and your shoulders are hitched up to your ears, and you’ll learn how to let go and lengthen upwards naturally instead. I use my hands to guide your muscles into a new state of cooperation and teach you skills to learn yourself.

Lessons are gentle and not painful, there are no sudden clicks or manipulations. Instead it is a process of allowing you to release tension and interfering habits, at a pace that suits you. Come wearing comfortable clothes that you are happy to lie down in. You will be asked to remove your shows and maybe any glasses you wear but nothing else!

How long are lessons and how many do I need?

Lessons usually take 30-40 minutes. The number of lessons will depend on your needs; are you coming for postoperative recovery or do you get minor back ache when sitting at a computer all day? people come for different reasons, from a musician wanting to improve their performance to deep rooted postural difficulties. A course of 6-10 lessons will give you a good idea of how you can use the AT to help yourself. You are learning a new skill of poise and balance, how far do you want to go?

Will I be given exercises to do?

It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it! No exercise, no matter how wonderful, will do you much good if you set about it with unconscious tension and effort. I will encourage you to be aware of what is happening in your lessons and ask you to take 10-20 minutes each day to lie down in semi-supine. This procedure will be explained during your lesson.

Click  for a FREE Semi-supine handout

Contact & Cost

email:carolyn.nicholls@me.com

Phone (Tel: 01273 278523) to ask about lessons and what is suitable for you. I am a very experienced teacher and I charge £45 per session.

Special offer: £425 for 10 lessons, which will last you a lot longer than a holiday and be of great personal benefit. Money well spent.

For further details see my personal website: Carolyn Nicholls