At about the age of 45, I began to experience severe pain in both of my knees. I was told I had damaged the cartilage, initially caused by the use of a kicking strap on a sailing dinghy, and made worse by many years of beagling, and to stop beagling or risk ending up in a wheelchair. A few years later a friend suggested the Alexander Technique. At first I was very sceptical, but had also reached the stage where I was ready to try virtually any means to solve the problem. A few weeks after my first lesson, I had gone out beagling, but only walking. Some hounds had separated from the main pack and the Master asked a friend to go and bring them back. As the friend ran past me, he asked me to accompany him in order to help him. I was amazed I could run without any pain whatsoever. My back pain had also almost completely disappeared although it remained a small problem for a while. If the pain recurred, I would almost immediately lie down to apply the Technique. It is now many years since I last had back pain. I am now 75 years old and still go out beagling.
Hypermobility – double-jointedness – is a connective tissue condition (usually inherited) in which the body’s collagen is more elastic than the ‘norm’, leading to increased flexibility. For some people, notably musicians, gymnasts, dancers and sports people, this natural flexibility gives a very useful advantage, though it leaves them more prone to injuries such as sprains and dislocations. In others it can cause clumsiness, lack of spatial awareness and joint pain.
Sometimes hypermobility can lead to debilitating chronic pain, known as Hypermobility Syndrome (HMS) / Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – Hypermobility (EDS-HM).
Amongst health care professionals, the Alexander Technique is increasingly recognised as helpful in developing strategies to deal with HMS and other hypermobility problems.
With the Alexander Technique you can learn:
- How your body is designed to function so that you can work with the design rather than against it.
- How to be comfortable in your body, whether at rest or in movement. With hypermobile joints, sitting and standing often involve ‘locking’ joints at one end of their range of movement as a way of stabilising them. This is bad news for your ligaments and tendons, and actually weakens them over time. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to avoid the locking and yet be able to sit or stand comfortably, in balance, with much less effort.
- How to prevent misuse and overuse - such as overstretching when doing exercises, or holding excessive muscular tension - and how to move with ease in daily life.
- How, as tension reduces, your balance and co-ordination can improve.
- To develop a reliable body awareness.
AT lessons may also contribute to an improved postural muscle tone (the normal state of balanced tension in the postural muscles) which can help to stabilise the torso. To find out more about research on the effect of Alexander Technique lessons on muscle tone, click here.
In cases of severe EDS-HM the Alexander Technique may work best alongside a structured exercise programme to gently build strength and stamina. The two work very well together.
For more information on EDS-HM please visit the Hypermobility Syndromes Association.