By Heather Stringer

 

Monday February 13, 2012     Excerpt on the Alexander Technique Interview with Idelle Packer, MS, PT,

certified teacher of the Alexander Technique  

 
 

Idelle Packer, PT, helps patient Tommy Millsaps with his back pain.

  Alexander Technique

 The Alexander Technique is another approach that aims to change the way

people move their entire bodies to alleviate pain in a specific area. The

principles of the technique were developed in the 1890s by Frederick Matthias

Alexander, a Shakespearean orator who suffered from voice loss during his

performances. Physicians could not find a cause for his malady, and he

discovered the technique as a way to alleviate his problems.

 

Idelle Packer, MS, PT, learned about the technique after she was injured in a

car accident, which jeopardized her career as a professional dancer. "Little by

little, I started learning how to organize my own movements to avoid nerve pain,"

said Packer, owner of Body Sense in Ashville, N.C.

 

Packer completed a three-year training program to become certified to teach

the Alexander Technique, and several years later she returned to school to study

physical therapy to gain the medical background she felt she needed to handle

complex cases.

 

"The Alexander Technique taught me how to observe a patient's habitual muscular

and postural movement patterns and analyze where they exhibited excess tension

and compression," she said. "I teach patients to think before they move, because

this awareness can help them avoid harmful positions."

 

Packer recalled a patient in his 50s who had suffered from chronic back pain since he had played rugby as a teen. She

observed the man as he stood up from a seated position and noticed his back was slumped as he sat. As a result, his chin

jutted forward as he lurched forward to stand up. When she asked him to lie down in his preferred sleeping posture, she observed

his back was curled forward in the fetal position similar to the hunch in his seated slump. She explained to the patient how his

movement patterns were putting a sustained posterior force on his discs, and she guided him into a preferred sitting position. With

gentle manual cues at his neck, she asked him to release the tension in his neck, and she guided his head upward.Then she

directed his knees so his thighs were moving away from the pelvis in a more neutral position, and as a result his back was not as

prone to slump.

 

After seven sessions, the man knew how to apply the postural principles of the Alexander Technique while working at a computer,

sleeping, walking and swimming. He also applied them while performing prescribed physical therapy exercises at home for back

mobility and strength. With these simple adjustments in posture, his back pain decreased dramatically.

 

"Awareness produces change," Packer said. "Patients learn new coordination patterns that change the way they function, and this

changes their structure. They are often surprised when they wake up without pain."

 

Although studying alternative therapies may require extra time and energy up front, Packer, Malmborg-O'Kelley and Boekmann

said the benefits of the additional training are obvious when they witness progress in patients who had resigned themselves to

lives of chronic back pain. "By having both Alexander and PT training, I can assess with physical therapy criteria through an

Alexander lens," Packer said. "I can teach patients the technique and then also use other modalities to help, such as electrical

stimulation and the cold pack. It is remarkable to have so many tools at my disposal. I have helped many people who have seen

an array of different practitioners with minimal results, and I give them hope again."

 

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Heather Stringer is a freelance writer.    Share your thoughts: editor@TodayinPT.com