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What is the Alexander Technique?

Lessons in the Alexander technique, named after Frederick Matthias Alexander, teach you how to stop using unnecessary levels of muscular and mental tension during your daily activities, the purpose being to help you unlearn bad physical habits and return to a balanced state of body alignment.

Alexander developed the principles in the 1890s as a personal tool to alleviate his breathing problems and voice loss during performances as a Shakespearean orator. After doctors found no physical cause, Alexander reasoned that he was doing something to himself while speaking to cause his problem. His self-observation showed a habitual pattern of pulling the head backwards and downwards which disrupted the normal working of his posture, breathing and vocal mechanisms. After experimenting to develop his ability to stop the unnecessary and habitual contracting in his neck, he found that his problem with recurrent voice loss was resolved. He refined his technique of self-observation and re-training to teach his discoveries to others from 1930 until his death in 1955.

Famous people who have studied the Alexander Technique include: Paul McCartney, Roald Dahl, John Cleese, Judy Dench and Paul Newman.

The technique teaches you how to use yourself when moving, resting and breathing. You learn to become aware of and then change the habits of movement, tension and reaction that interfere with healthy coordination. Coordination and poise rely on the natural balance of the head, neck and back (Alexander called this ‘the primary control’). The technique works through re-establishing this natural balance to promote easy upright posture and efficient functioning, body and mind.

Easing Early Labour Pains

Pregnancy, how to ease early labour pains

The start of labour pains does not necessarily mean that childbirth will occur soon thereafter. Some women may only be in labour for a few hours while for others the ordeal can last for one to two days. Labour pains are a natural part of childbirth but it is challenging for any women. Modern drugs have proven to be useful in this regard but it is not always advisable for a prolonged labour. Instead other measures to comfort the mother and ease the early labour pains should be considered.

Some women have a higher pain threshold and are able to contend with labour pain for a longer period without any intervention. For most women however, simple conservative measures may be sufficient until drugs are feasible to use. Easing early labour pains should involve the partner as simple reassurance and support may be sufficient to make the experience tolerable. Even soothing music may help some women stay calm and deal with the pain.

However, more definitive measures are required at some point before opting for drugs. Various techniques have been explored and while the results may vary, all of these measures are safe options for easing early labour pains. Breathing, massage and heat or cold therapy are some of the more widely preferred options. These non-invasive techniques do not pose any risk to the baby and may in fact be helpful – if the mother unable to handle the pain, the stress response can affect the baby.

Beautiful pregnant woman doing exercises.

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction – Managing SPD During Pregnancy

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) occurs as a result of a hormone called relaxin (which also makes your feet bigger in pregnancy).  This hormone allows the usually taut ligaments that connect the three bones of your pelvis, to relax and make way for baby. While this added flexibility is useful during birthing, it can cause pain during pregnancy in the form of SPD.

Symptoms include pains or aches in the pelvic area that radiates to the lower back, hips, buttocks and down the legs.  You may also experience pain with movements  such as getting out of bed or a car and other positions where one leg drops down in a scissor-like movement. Walking and other weight-bearing activities can increase pain.

Self-Help Tips

Daily movement:

  • Stand symmetrically, with your weight evenly distributed through both legs.
  • Sit down to get dressed, especially when putting on underwear or trousers.
  • Keep your legs close together and move symmetrically and slowly.   Avoid “straddle” movements.
  • Swing your legs together as a unit when getting in and out of cars.  Use something slippery on the car seat e.g. bin liner,  to help you enter car backwards and then turn your legs as a unit.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or pushing.
  • When climbing stairs, step up with your best leg and then bring your other leg to meet it.

Therapies:

  • Acupuncture may reduce pain levels.
  • Movement and strengthening therapies like the Alexander Technique and Pilates may help. The Alexander Technique helps retrain more efficient and better muscle usage. Pilates works on strengthening the core muscle areas e.g. abs, back, etc.
  • Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic may help.

Bed:

  • Use a pillow between your legs when sleeping and/or use a pillow under baby.
  • Keep your legs and hips as symmetrical as possible when moving in bed.  You may find it helpful to have your partner stabilize your hips when adjusting position.
  • Silk/satin sheets and nighties may make it easier to turn over in bed.

Exercise:

  • Performing regular pelvic floor exercises and lower abdominal exercises can help to reduce pelvic strain. To perform a lower abdominal exercise, get down onto your hands and knees and level your back so that it is roughly flat. Breathe in and as you breathe out, perform a pelvic floor exercise and at the same time pull your belly button in and up. Hold this for 5-10 seconds without holding your breath and without moving your back. Relax the muscles slowly at the end of the exercise.
  • Back pain can be helped by resting backwards over a birth ball.
  • Water aerobics may be helpful.

 

Finally some general advice which might help.  Ask a partner to massage your lower back.  If their hands get tired, they could use a rolling pin or tennis ball.  If you prefer hard pressure on this area, get on your hands and knees and arch your back a bit, then have your partner put their elbow against the area and rub in small circles.

A chilled wheat bag may feel soothing and help reduce inflammation in the pubic area. Wheat bags warmed in the microwave before using, feel really nice on the back!

Back Pain in Pregnancy

Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

There are many aches and pains in pregnancy. Lower back pain is by far one of the most common musculoskeletal ailments that most pregnant women will experience, particularly in the third trimester. However, in pregnancy it is not as simple a matter as popping an anti-inflammatory or painkiller to relieve pain and discomfort. With a growing baby, most pregnant women prefer to stay away from all drugs even if it is considered to be safe for use during pregnancy.

Fortunately modern drugs are not the only option for some of the common complaints of pregnancy. With lower back pain, simple manual therapies may be just as effective in offering pain relief. A gentle massage, proper stretching and the use of external heat may be sufficient to ease lower back pain and even prevent it to some degree.