Case Study: “Slipped” Discs

Angela, former elite athlete now in her late 50’s, had a history of back pain, and an apparently unresolved tear in her piriformus muscle. She had two bulging discs and she had had to put off overseas travel because she couldn’t sit without agony.

She had regular Alexander Technique lessons and steadily improved the way she moved and used herself. She learned to recognise her habit of compressing her spine whatever she was doing, and she built confidence in her ability to turn this around. In the process she resolved the old piriformus sports injury.

In applying the Alexander Technique template (we define good use as expanding use: characterised by a free neck, a torso that is elastic in its length and also three-dimensionally, legs that balance rather than brace, and arms and hands which are free of grasping) we immediately encountered various habits which Angela had, completely unconsciously of course, and which prevented all of the above: her neck was caught between the need to keep her head up, and the downwards drag exerted by her entire torso; her chest was more or less collapsed, creating downwards pressure on her upper back as well as her neck; her hip joints were functionally absent – tension around the hips obliged her to hinge in her lower back, while generating pressure down through her legs, and making them harder to move.

Angela had practised mindfulness meditation for years and after the first few lessons said she was now getting “body-mindfulness”. She was able to attend to her neck with the non-doing intention for it to release, (with the back lengthening and becoming more spacious). The more she practised this, the more her troublesome lower back was settling. She realised that the muscles affected by her old sports injury had not relaxed for years. The piriformus problem was dissolving. Getting to know her hip joints anew, while allowing more length and “up-ness” through her torso, allowed a rebalancing over her hips, which revolutionised the everyday act of walking. After 20 lessons, quite intensively over 8 weeks, Angela was delighted and was able to travel to the UK.

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