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Practice of Jeremy Woolhouse, pianist and Alexander Technique Teacher in Melbourne, Australia

Specialist in working with musicians, RSI, posture re-education, neck, back and chronic pain management. 

Articles on Alexander Technique in life - by Jeremy Woolhouse

Monthly blog articles by Jeremy Woolhouse.  Alexander Technique for daily life, music performance, specialised activities, pain relief and management.

Alexander Technique and RSI

Jeremy Woolhouse

Repetitive strain injuries - a global solution to a local problem.

Musicians and computer users are at the top of the list for Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).  
Alexander Technique’s unique approaches make it a powerful tool in prevention and management of RSI symptoms.  poise and action in accord with Alexander Technique principles promotes long term resolution of underlying causes of strain.

Alexander Technique RSI

Involving the whole

Symptoms of RSI often appear localised.  Frequently, contemporary treatments are only locally applied.  Alexander Technique puts a localised pain in context of the whole self, and the work we are doing.

In the case of RSI in the wrist, for example, Alexander Technique is not just looking to resolve wrist pain, but to provide optimal function for the hand and fingers in order to perform as required.

To do this, we must take into account the arm that supports the hand, the torso which supports the arm, the spine which supports the torso, the posture of the whole body and the overall attitude of our self in relation to our body and our work.  

Anything less might only provide superficial change.  Finding a positive dynamic posture is a fundamental change as it stimulates an active support for our hands’ work.  Without such engagement, the hands may be creating pain conditions trying to compensate for lack of support.  

The re-discovery of poise is a function of a positive mental attitude.

How Alexander Technique addresses RSI

Alexander Technique trains a thinking framework which stimulates a positive orientation of the whole person; mind and body.  It is taught in context of the student’s activity - be it at a computer or with an instrument.  

The verbal and contact guidance of a teacher offers the pupil an experience of moving in a different way.  It is a strain free manner of movement different to usual, habitual movement.

The pupil starts to recognise other options for moving than the familiar, RSI generating habit.  Initially, this may be unconscious, but with practice, one becomes aware of the effect of a coordination change.  From that point, the student is able to make a choice about the way in which he or she is moving.

Verbal instructions from the teacher give the student a framework of directions.  Pupils will use these to activate their new coordination as they develop skill in independently recreating positive change.

Muscle tension doesn’t always mean stain

One common misconception of RSI problems is that they are always created by muscle tension.  Overuse injury is a term used synonymously with RSI.  

It is more accurate to say that problems arise from an imbalance of muscle tension, or an inappropriate engagement of muscle.  Too much tension in the wrong place for the wrong amount of time will cause complications.  Too little tone will cause an absence of support for effective functioning and may cause compression on nerve supply.  

Alexander Technique suggests will consider ‘overuse’ injuries to be ‘mis-use’ injuries.  A misuse of a symptomatic wrist, will invariably be associated with a misuse of supporting structures.  Alexander Technique trains us to employ the appropriate tone for the task at hand.

Making the change from the usual

We can presume if there are symptoms present and the sufferer is unable to change the condition alone, that there is an acquired habituation of ineffective muscle recruitment.  A new balance of tone is required.  This may initially feel awkward as it will necessarily differ from the familiar and habitual use.  

We cannot rely on feeling to guide the re-education of movement.  What feels ‘right’ is ubiquitously confused for what feels ‘normal’.

Alexander Technique relies on the body’s own coordinative intelligence.  Alexander Technique teaches a process we can use to access it.  

Alexander Technique is difficult to relate to without experience, but once established, it generates its own momentum and forms the basis - not for a new better habit - but a freedom from habit.  

Creating a coordinated poise and movement creates conditions which reduce the effect of RSI symptoms, often completely removing them.  The conditions which gave rise to the symptoms in the first place are no longer going to present as viable choices.  The Alexander Technique trained individual acquires recognition of and skill in making choices.  It becomes a practice which not only prevents further RSI issues, but actively cultivates more skill in the practitioner’s craft.

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