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Case Study Issue 114: Alexander Technique - Lessons for Life

by Tamar Dhiri(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 114 - August 2005

"I recommend the Alexander Technique as an extremely sophisticated form of rehabilitation."
Professor N. Tinbergen, Nobel Prize for Medicine

With almost every step that Jenny took, her hips would dislocate. At only 14 years of age, the challenges she was facing in her early teenage years were proving all but insurmountable. Diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome, even the most basic activities of her daily life were leading her to a cycle of pain and distress.

"I was having problems with my back when I sat, stood and walked. My knees were really swollen and always sore. I couldn't get in and out of chairs very well and I couldn't bend down at all. And on top of all the pain, I felt really down about it all."

When Jenny first came to see me for a series of lessons in the Alexander Technique, travelling down form Yorkshire to London during her school holidays, it was apparent that the benefits that she would gain could be transformational. "I knew right away that it was something that could help me because I knew how awful my posture was, and that it was more than likely making my pain worse." Following a detailed postural assessment, I set about devising strategies to help Jenny identify and change the harmful habits that were placing unnecessary stress on her joints and ligaments.

My objectives were twofold. Firstly, to teach Jenny the skills needed to change those aspects of her posture that were creating such a strain on her body. Secondly, to encourage her to develop a greater understanding of her own body and to give her the experience of performing everyday tasks with freer and less stressful movements through the use of explanation and gentle guiding touch. "Even after my first lesson I knew that things were going to pick up." Below are a series of photographs taken during her initial lessons in The Alexander Technique (not shown online).

Sitting: The 'Slump' Pattern

When sitting and writing, which she does for several hours a day at school, Jenny was experiencing continual pain in her neck, shoulders and lower back. This collapsed position, with her back slumped into a pronounced C-shape, has lead to a reversal of her backs natural curves, placing stress forces on her spine – particularly on the anterior bodies of her lumbar spine. Her head and neck have dropped forwards from her body and her shoulders are rounded, placing her neck and shoulder muscles under considerable stress.

Balanced Use In Sitting

After applying the Alexander Technique, the most obvious change is that Jenny's back is long, rather than collapsed forwards. Her spine has retained its natural curves and her torso's weight is now better distributed through her lower back and pelvis. Her head is balanced over her neck and her shoulders have widened, taking the stress off her neck and shoulder muscles. The slump pattern has been replaced by a balanced sitting position, which Jenny finds comfortable and easy to maintain. She no longer experiences any of the aches and pains that she had suffered previously.

The Slump Pattern In Activity

We imagine an inability to bend down as being the preserve of the elderly. But at only 14 years of age, Jenny could bend no further than this. Her torso has collapsed forwards and shoulders are rounded, creating a pronounced 'hump'. Her head is pulled back into her shoulders, shortening and stiffening her neck.

Balanced Use In Activity

Here we see Jenny beginning to learn a completely new approach to bending down, which does not involve using her back and neck in the movement. Using this new movement pattern, she is now able to bend all the way to the ground without pain for the first time.

Poor Proprioception In Standing

Jenny's knees were always swollen and sore and she was unable to stand for long as her lower back and knees began to ache. On careful observation, you can see Jenny's body weight falling forwards over her toes, causing her knees to hyperextend backwards, thereby placing them under considerable strain. Her pelvis has collapsed backwards, causing a slightly exaggerated lumbar lordosis.

Balanced Use in Standing

Jenny has re-established a sense of balance from her neck down through her hip, knee, and ankle joints. Her sense of balance and proprioception, commonly poor in Hypermobility Syndrome, has improved. Her lower back pain has improved and the swelling in her knees has gone down.

Since starting lessons in The Alexander Technique, Jenny's quality of life has improved dramatically. She has made significant improvements in her body awareness, co-ordination and muscle control and has learnt how to maintain the benefits and improvements on her own. Her pain levels have dropped dramatically and most importantly, since relearning how to walk her hips have not dislocated once. She feels that she has been given her life back. "I don't know what I would do without the lessons."

Learning The Alexander Technique involves retraining dysfunctional movement patterns, the therapeutic benefits of which can be considerable. Although Jenny's problems were acute, her postural problems are common to many. She hopes that her story will inspire others to try the Alexander Technique for themselves.


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About Tamar Dhiri

Tamar Dhiri MSTAT Cert MBAcC LicAc ClinAc (China) has over 20 years experience in The Alexander Technique and is a leading expert in Natural Health. She is a respected teacher, presenter, author and consultant. As well as running a successful practice, Tamar works closely as an advisor to medical charities and the NHS. Her client base ranges from celebrities, teenagers and seniors to back care and injury rehabilitation patients. She may be contacted via

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