Heather Stegmaier, M.AmSAT

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« AT Question: I am a new mom and would love to incorporate the AT into my daily life so that I can meet the day's physical challenges with ease. What can I do with my body (or think) to ease it before I go to pick up my baby and what can I do to improve my posture while I'm holding my 18 lb. daughter (which I do A LOT ... like, practically all day)? ~Tara | Main | AT Question: When I'm out for my usual walk around the neighborhood, I tend to put my hands on my hips up the challenging hills, and find myself leaning forward. This doesn't make any sense, but I find myself automatically doing it and correcting myself. Any suggestions? ~Diane »
Friday
Dec202013

AT Question: I was in a car accident 6 months ago, which left me with pain on the right side of my neck. I went to the chiropractor for numerous sessions and was told I was back to normal. However, the pain came back and still exists, sometimes mildly sometimes more acutely. What can I do?  ~Amy

AT Answer: Thank you for this important question, Amy! You bring up a really great topic: does chronic pain (whether brought about through an injury, accident, repetitive strain, or no event at all) have a beginning and end? Before I give you concrete steps to take to address your chronic pain issue, I’d like to touch on this topic.

Our culture really likes the idea of fixing things, and this is no different when it comes to our health. Of course, after an injury, there is a time for healing and “getting back to normal”.  These are important steps to take after an injury or accident, and health care providers such as chiropractors offer an important method of care. I will call this ‘treatment’, which has a beginning and an end.

But what happens after you’ve been treated and sent on your way? Most likely you go back to your normal everyday life, which includes deep set habits of movement. These habitual patterns can interfere with your well-being and contribute to chronic pain.

For example, a person may have a habit of pulling their head back and down which compresses the neck. Most habits are unconscious, so they may not even realize they do this. When faced with danger, as in a car accident, the physical habit may become emphasized and on impact, the chance for possible injury may be increased. Once the injury is treated, through any type of medical treatment, the person is declared back to normal, as in your case. However, the habit of pulling the head back and down and compressing the neck is still present.  

The Alexander Technique is unique because it takes an educational approach to chronic pain. I am a teacher, the people who see me are my students, and we meet during a private lesson to learn the life skill of the Alexander Technique.

The life skills of the Alexander Technique are used to explore and change our deep set habits of thought and movement. When used in tandem with medical care, the results can be very empowering.

Here are some steps you can take, based on the Alexander Technique, to help with the pain in your neck (click on the link of each header for more info):

  1. Stop and Rest—creating a self-care routine that is restorative is important. Conscious Rest Position is a great way to quiet the body and calm the mind.
  2. Awareness—habits are really hard to change, especially if you don’t know what they are! Start to bring awareness to yourself, and track how you move or how you go about your day. Is there any movement habit that is causing you to compress your spine, collapse in the torso, or create a lot of tension in your body? Breath is a good measure of this as well. Check in with your breath, if you are holding it that’s a good sign that you are holding tension elsewhere too.
  3. Think Up—thinking up, or conceiving of the space above your head, can immediately send the message to your body to lengthen and expand. Most of us go about our day compressed with our awareness down. Up is the magic word to create change.
  4. Find an Alexander Technique teacher in your area—the only way to actually learn the Alexander Technique is to take private lessons or a group class. Reading about it is wonderful, but the experience is key. Through experiential learning, the teacher can help you become aware of your habits and give you concrete guidance and cognitive skills to change your patterns.

To answer the question in the first paragraph of my response, chronic pain does not have a beginning and end. Participating in your own path to wellness is your best answer for improving your daily living experience and keeping pain to a minimum. The Alexander Technique is a great tool to have in your toolbox because it helps you live your life the best possible way.

I wish you all the best on your journey to wellness!

Heather

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