Lower back and Sciatic Pain: Can the Alexander Technique Help?

24 January 2021

Alexander Technique Teacher Pete Robinson

Written by Pete Robinson mSTAT

In this video, I’m going to explain some of the issues that commonly cause back and sciatic pain. You’ll see how it is often our own actions that are causing the pain and preventing ourselves from recovering. I’m going to show you how you can start to break some of the habits that are causing the problems and how making some simple changes can bring rapid relief to any pain you may be experiencing already. Stick around to the end of the video where I’ll show how to use the AT to improve the type of stretches that people are often prescribed for these conditions.

 

"So, what is the cause of the pain? It's usually related to 2 connected things: Balance and tension."

Although AT’s effectiveness in dealing with back pain has been proven in clinical trials and many doctors refer people for lessons, you must, of course consult with your doctor if you are concerned about back pain so that they can rule out more serious injuries and conditions.

Most back pain is what the medical profession call ‘Non Specific’ This means that there is no obvious injury or medical condition causing the pain. In these cases, the pain is usually associated with poor posture and excessive tension. Luckily, poor posture and excessive tension is exactly what the AT is great at dealing with. The symptoms that people experience range from dull, niggling aches through to absolutely debilitating pain. Many people also experience shooting nerve pain in one or both legs which is known as Sciatic pain Sciatic pain follows the path of the Sciatic nerve from the back, through the buttocks, down the back of the leg and into the foot. It’s the longest nerve in the body so when its painful, it is hard to ignore. The pain also ranges in severity from a bit uncomfortable to excruciating.

Firstly, if you are experiencing back or sciatic pain now, you have my sympathy and understanding as in the past I was plagued by both of these and I understand the effect they can have on your life.

So, what is the cause of the pain? It’s usually related to 2 connected things: Balance and tension If our bodies are well balanced, our muscles have appropriate levels of tension and our joints are aligned in a way that promotes free movement. If our bodies are out of balance, muscles develop excessive tension and joints are aligned in a way that causes compression.

If a body is tending to be tense and compressed, muscles can become exhausted and painful, blood flow can be restricted and nerves can be compressed causing pain. Because our bodies parts are so interconnected, often the pain in the back may originate from a completely different part of the body being out of balance.

For example, if we habitually stick our head and neck forwards when sitting, Our head is out of balance and not supported by the spine. This then causes our neck, shoulder and uppper back muscles to tense more which in turn make the lower back and hips tighter and the pelvis is pulled into a backward tilt. This then places a lot of pressure on the spinal discs and our nerves and back pain can be the result.

Of course if we try to sort out the problem by focussing in on the area that hurts, we will be unable to get anywhere as the root cause is somewhere else. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense to do exercises to strengthen the back or have treatment on that area until the general balance is improved.

So, how do we improve our general balance? The AT approach is based on changing our priorities to improving awareness of whats going on in ourselves and sticking to the simple decision to be in balance and to not compress ourselves when we move It’s great if you get the chance to work 1 on 1 with an Alexander Technique teacher to learn these practical skills but you can also work independently.

To help people develop in this way, I’m making videos each week and I recommend that you use those to start your journey of improving balance and decreasing tension.