Stopping the grind vs fixing the damage
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
When people move with strain, eventually they hurt themselves. Medical professionals like physical therapists can undo that damage, at least partly. They can give you exercises that help you continue the job at home.
But doing those exercises isn't the same as re-educating the way you move. Fixing the damage caused by strain isn’t the same as stopping the strain. Teaching you to do things without that strain is what Alexander Technique teachers do.
Stopping the strain won’t fix all of the damage you’ve already caused. You might need physical therapy, surgery, or medicine for that. Get it if you need it. But if you only do the fixing, and leave out the re-educating, you may end up back at the physical therapist’s office for the exact same problem later, because you really only addressed the symptom. If you want to uproot the problem completely, it’s a process of becoming aware of when you’re tightening muscles unnecessarily, stopping it, and going about your business without tightening back up again. No amount of fixing the damage that’s already been caused will do that.
Tension isn’t really a medical issue, although it may create them. Stopping tension requires skill and paying attention in daily life. It cannot be delegated. You do it yourself, or it doesn't happen. Doctors are not any more qualified in this regard than laymen. That isn’t their job, any more than it would be their job to teach you piano.
Before this becomes anti-science nonsense, let me be perfectly clear that the Alexander Technique is not medicine of any kind. I’m not qualified to diagnose anything, and doctors are. When they do, you should listen to them. Western medicine is a miracle, and to disparage it is foolishness. I’m pointing out that the Alexander Technique serves a fundamentally different and complementary function to medicine. People tend to assume that stopping tension is within the sphere of the medical community. That’s a misunderstanding. Stopping tension is minor adjustments over time, not getting something fixed.
If you have something that does need fixing, please, go get it fixed if you can. Just don’t expect that to solve something in the long term if the cause of it is excessive tension in daily activities. The solution for that is learning to notice when you do it, and learning how to stop it. That’s what you learn in Alexander lessons.