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Medical experts recommending unorthodox back pain treatment

As an employer, you are likely familiar with the litany of work injuries that commonly befall your employees, including wrist injuries, foot sprains and, the most common of all, back pain.

While this large number of back injuries in the workforce may be alarming and perhaps even frustrating, it should actually come as no surprise given the gradual shift of many Americans toward a more inactive lifestyle.

"A lot of back pain is due to the fact that we're a sedentary culture," said Matt Pressman, a certified instructor who helps clients with an alternative treatment for back pain. "People sit an average of 14 hours a day ... and the cumulative effect is compressing the vertebrae and putting extra weight [on the spine and neck]."

In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified back pain as one of the nation's most common medical maladies. Specifically, the NIH estimates that eight out of every ten Americans are afflicted with back pain.

Interestingly, medical professionals are now starting to recognize a new treatment for back pain that doesn't involve pain medication, surgery or even physical therapy, but that is credited with alleviating 86 percent of chronic back pain.

Known as the Alexander technique, it is taught by certified instructors such as Pressman, who show patients how to hold and move their skeletal frame in a certain way so as to correct their alignment/posture, thereby alleviating muscle tension and preventing unnecessary physical effort.

In other words, unlike Pilates or yoga, which are focused solely on the stretching/flexing of muscles, the Alexander technique focuses solely on the positioning of the skeletal frame while standing, moving and sitting.

The Alexander technique was developed back in the 1890s by an actor named F. Matthias Alexander as a way of enhancing stage performance before being adapted for treatment purposes.

While some people -- especially employers -- may be understandably dubious, consider the following:

  • In 2008, the British Medical Journal found that people with back pain who had taken 24 Alexander technique lessons over the course of a single year experienced greater mobility/flexibility and reduced the number of days they felt back pain by 86 percent
  • In 2011, the medical journal Human Movement Science published a study showing that the Alexander technique helped reduce muscle stiffness in patients with lower back pain
  • In 2011, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommended the Alexander technique as a form of alternative therapy for chronic back pain

"I know this sounds really weird, but [the instructor] worked on me for an hour and I walked out of here with no pain," said a Florida-based yoga instructor who dealt with chronic back pain for many years. "I didn't know I was holding my back muscles tight because of the way I was standing."

It is worth noting, however, that the Alexander technique is not currently covered by health insurance companies here in the United States.

Stay tuned for further stories on work injuries and workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice.


The Sun Sentinel, "Age-old Alexander technique a new way to deal with back pain" Jan. 20, 2012

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