Case Study: Misuse in a Musician, Leading to All Sorts of Problems!

Mitch started having Alexander Technique lessons because of technical difficulties and inconsistency in his playing which was interfering with his career as a violinist. He had studied at the NSW Conservatorium, played in the opera and ballet orchestra and was on a scholarship doing a postgrad performance degree when these problems brought him up short. Mitch had a powerfully held “sway back” (diligently but unconsciously developed through years of music practice in this sort of posture – knees locked, hips thrust forward, with his entre upper body bearing heavily back and down onto his legs) as well as an awkwardly balanced head. These elements of Mitch’s misuse of himself were associated with various unconscious tensions and adaptations needed to continue to function, at a high level where playing the violin was concerned, but at a cost elsewhere. As he continued having Alexander Technique lessons these other issues came into focus.

He was only half-aware of them, and in a very disconnected way. It turned out that he had since early teenage years suffered from Low Back Pain. More recently, headaches had become more or less continuous. His feet hurt and he had considerable neck and shoulder tension. In having AT lessons (on account of technical violin-playing hurdles) he gradually came to understand that these other apparently disparate symptoms all led back to his general misuse of himself, and were also connected with the technical violin-playing challenges. He worked on the basic relationship between head and spine such that there was more freedom and less tension in his neck; his back started to be able to relax for the first time in years and his respiratory function was able to work under less restriction. Very quickly his headaches stopped and his feet improved.

Over about a year he rehabilitated his playing and was able to resume his career in music. The lower-back tension was a deeply held part of Mitch’s pattern of use of himself and so it took longer, but the more Mitch worked on improving the basics, the freer of LB pain he became and indeed he gradually developed a “good” back. Interestingly, Mitch noticed a huge change for the better in his breathing, and how it went with more freedom in his arms. Concomitantly, his violin playing subtly changed, becoming more reliable technically and developing a freer sound.

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