Alexander Technique (personal impressions)

bullet1 Before A.T.

A.T. was "discovered" or "invented" by F.M.Alexander about one century ago but I am not here interested in what happened before "he" discovered it but what was before "I" discovered it...

I had pains in my back since I was 12 (or before, I am not sure when it started but I am sure it was before I was 13, actually the first time I was probably not even 10... I vaguely remember the doctors practice and him telling I should drink more milk before I finisched 4th grade). Several doctors heard me and said things like "it is from growing up, it will go away in a couple years". I was given (several times) Calcium in pills and B2 injections.

Finally I was 19 when the doctor father of a friend (famous portuguese surgeon) said "nonsense, how can they say what you have if they have never made a full body X-ray?"

Indeed some time later I visited another doctor (orthopedist and surgeon) who this time did indeed ask for a "full body X-ray" and made a diagnostic which went something like this:

<< Scoliosis caused by birth defect... one lumbar vertebrae is not strong enough and over the years of development of bad habits spine is inclined to the left and two vertebrae are partially "glued" together.>>

Cure: None! The problem is there, it is a pity it developed but there is nothing to do now except to avoid it gets worse, but it will never go away.

All we can do is avoid it will get worst through taking care, avoiding certain actions and doing some phisiotherapy to make the stomach, diafragma and lower back muscles "stronger" so they can compensate the "weak spine" and better support it.

I was given a list of "careful ways" with instructions on how to lay in bed (sideways), how to lift weights and even how to have sex with minimal effort (the "amazon position") and other interesting details.

The phisiotherapy provided some exercises which I mostly did not do because "gymnastics" was not really "my thing" and I only remembered the exercises when the pains returned... (I guess I never did get a very strong back but in a way maybe that was fortunate because a "very strong" back would have meant also a less flexible back - but if I kept some flexibility I never took advantage of it because at the minimum sign of pain I would stop and "not move" and with time that became very often...)

Additionally I was advised to give up certain sports I enjoyed like Karate and Tenis (although not a very sportive type I did occasionally practice some). I was told the two vertebrae which were almost glued on the left side made it dangerous to practice any sport which might involve sudden movements specially torsion because of the risc of disc slip.

Sometime around when I became 30 the pains became practically permanent but I was also used to them: the day would normally start with 20 minutes or more in warm water in order to "relax" to the point where I could move. The pain was there all the time and only when it became extremely strong would I take some pain killer (a very strong one equivalent to 5 aspirins if I remember correctly, but I rarely took it). In extreme cases I would remain in bed the whole day but mostly the pains were always there so I did not stay in bed just because of some pains, it was simply there like a part of me, like flat foot which I also had since I was born).

In 1996 the pains were becoming so bad I could no longer walk more than 20 minutes but this was considered "normal" by the orthopedist, considering the situation of my back, and I was advised to be carefull and take a rest often. Cirurgy was not yet considered required (by the orthopedist I visited, I carefully avoided anyone who seemed to suggest such drastical methods...). Shoping was done only by car!

In 1997, before I took the first A.T. lesson, the limit of my walking without taking a rest was now 5 minutes. Carrying more then 1 Kg rice was getting difficult and only in rare cases I carried 2 Kg from the Supermarket.

(today, although I still avoid carrying heavy weights if I can, when I go shopping or travelling I can carry 20 Kg with less difficulty then many people I know, with the same age, and without bending sideways or making a special effort to keep straight!)

Please send any comments to António Guerreiro. Last updated on 08.02.2004.