Posture, sitting and back pain…. and how the Alexander Technique can help

“Back injuries are extremely common, yet often misunderstood” says an article in the Guardian.

The article goes on to suggest useful lifestyle choices that can help with back pain. Including how helpful it would be to learn the Alexander Technique. In doing so, it cites the British Medical Journal’s randomised trial, which showed the benefits of the technique for back pain to be both effective and long-lasting.

This is very good to see. For lately there has been a fashion for undermining the importance of posture. I have even seen suggestions that slouching when sitting is not that bad for us.

I beg to differ. Both my personal experience of back pain and my experience as an Alexander Technique practitioner have taught me otherwise.

Posture awareness to maintain an upright flow in the body is a basic requirement in the daily life of us humans. This is at the core of the Alexander Technique. Integral to good posture is good sitting.

Our spine has three main curves. These are designed to maximise mechanical advantages for weight bearing and distribution. They act like shock absorbers when we move. How can it not matter if we excessively compress these curves by slouching?

Sitting is a sedentary state recognised as not being good for us. How much worse then it is to sit badly! The long-term effects of compressing the spine curves by slouching will be felt at some point. We can minimise the negative effects of sedentary sitting by learning to sit on… guess what? Our sitting bones!

These bones (or Ischial tuberosities, to give them their proper anatomical name) are located at the bottom of the trunk forming part of the base of the pelvis. When we sit, their job is to support the skeletal structure of our backs.

Sitting like this leaves the bottom end of the spine—the tailbone—free from the pressure of the chair. This allows the entire vertebral column to keep its natural length.

That’s one end of the spine. What happens at the other end, where the neck connects to the head? Well, you may well be familiar with the expression computer or text neck. Suffice to say that when our head, neck and back are correctly aligned, the body is naturally self-supported upright, against the pull of gravity, with minimum of effort.

The link between poor sitting and poor posture—and back pain—is clear. But when we regain our natural upright posture we function in a physiologically efficient way. This is described In the Alexander Technique as functioning with “maximum of efficiency and minimum of effort”.

In highlighting the usefulness of learning the Alexander Technique as a means of addressing back pain, this article hits the nail on the head.

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