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Whenever a new client shows up at the door with migraine headaches as their issue, I ask whether or not they had braces on their teeth at any point in their life.  The answer is yes 99 times out of 100.  I know that I will find extremely tight muscles throughout the head, neck and upper back, and the origin of their tightness shows up in the stress around the teeth.  There are all kinds of braces used on teeth, in conjunction with extraction, moving teeth over, and probably one of the most horrific processes being performed on children/adolescents is the attempt to re-position the jaw to change the bite.

The delicate balance of natural inherent human coordination is centered approximately where the temporal mandibular joint occurs.  Any attempt to change that alignment will produce all kinds of problems.  Ordinary braces can and do affect that alignment.  The restriction of the muscles throughout the head and neck don’t stop there; it travels down the back and produces mal-coordination of the hip and lower back, which in turn can affect the knees, and the way the feet meet the ground.

I had a case wherein jaw re-positioning was done when the client was in her teens.  Teeth had been pulled, and other teeth had been ground down to make her bite “fit.”  In her 20’s, the migraines appeared, to such a massive degree of pain she was having difficulty sustaining employment.  Her doctor ultimately told her it was all in her mind.  It took two years of Alexander lessons and working in tandem with a chiropractor and new dentist to restore the original alignment.  This allowed her to finally function with fewer headaches, and now, ten years later, migraines are no longer an issue.

In my opinion, putting a child in braces while they are in the process of growing should be avoided if at all possible.  And if you must do it, please get your child to an Alexander teacher, chiropractor, or cranial-sacral therapist during the process.  This will help offset the negative effects of this intrusive dental work.

 

First, I must emphatically state that not all Alexander teachers are the same. Therefore, what I am about to describe is particularly unique to my style of teaching.

I have had several clients injured by concussions and/or TBI.  Two of them stand out for me in that, the reason their symptoms remained in a chronic state was because the brain had altered the placement of the spinal cord on a kinesthetic level.  In plain English, the brain thought the spinal cord was two inches to the left of where it actually was.  The brain then proceeded to adapt the entire body’s coordination based on this botched structure, leaving it trapped in all kinds of pain, e.g. headaches, balance problems, eye focus, uneven jaw placement, etc.

It was miraculous, quite frankly, to witness the changes these clients  manifested once the correct information was made available to the brain.  However, it takes courage to move through this process, as the trauma might be revisited to a certain degree in order to effect the change.

I recently worked with an Iraq war veteran who suffered from excruciating headaches for 5 years after a rocket propelled  grenade attack.  In six lessons over an 8 week period his headaches were gone.  Sounds easy, but it was necessary for him to recall some difficult experiences in order to release into his authentic coordination.

I find that surgical intervention makes it almost impossible for me to restore the brain back to it’s natural functioning.  I never say “never” but those cases have been extremely difficult for me.

The Jessica Locke Firefighters Fund has been selected to receive a Harvard Pilgrim Community Spirit 9/11 Mini-Grant to provide Alexander Technique lessons to firefighters. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care created  the Community Spirit 9/11 Mini-Grants Program to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11, 2001 through a special contribution to its Foundation.  The Foundation administers this special fund and distributes the Mini-Grants to non-profit organizations that Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Health Plans Inc. and Dell Perot employees nominate.  Since 2002, hundreds of Harvard Pilgrim, Health Plans Inc. and Dell Perot employees have had their Mini-Grants approved — benefiting schools, social service, and cultural and other community-based organizations where their employees live and work. 

One of the most common complaints that arrive in my office is hip pain, sometimes accompanied by sciatica pain down either leg.  

And one of the most common reasons why this hip pain exists is because the student is collapsing into the pelvis.  The chest is down, the ribs are down – if you can imagine being slumped in a chair with all your muscle tissue collapsed on top of your hips, then try to picture that while walking, you have a general idea of what I mean by collapsing into the pelvis.  

The muscles and bones of the hips are designed to work in a state of tension, a system of pulleys and ropes.  (This state of tension exists throughout the entire body.)   If any of that tension is allowed to go slack, (or if the tension increases more than the muscle/joint can handle), the muscles can’t work as they know how to do.  Inflammation shows up, and the muscles contract even more against the pain, creating an endless cycle of more collapse and more pain in the joint.

The Alexander Technique teaches one how to lengthen throughout the entire muscular system, keeping the ropes and pulleys working with the least amount of effort.  Generally, I can take someone out of hip pain immediately once the student is shown this new coordination.  However, there is residual inflammation in the joint that takes a few days to dissipate.  

A week later, when the student returns and complains that the pain returned in 3-4 days, I show the student how he has returned to his old pattern of use, collapsing from above.  Once that is corrected repeatedly over a course of lessons, the pain usually disappears altogether.

The older I get, I continually encounter a common belief system that getting older means we are doomed to fall apart in terms of our health and wellbeing.  We are pounded from all sides by drug company commercials warning us of all kinds of symptoms that can be alleviated by their product.  (And the side effects of the drug can be worse than the original problem.)

But are we really meant to fall into such a state of disrepair that we must resort to medications and joint replacements and spinal fusions for the last 30 years of our lives?  From what I have learned over a 20 year teaching career in the Alexander Technique, I have to reply with a resounding “no” to that question.  Repeatedly, I find it is how a person is using him/herself that creates the quality and quantity of symptoms they experience.  

For example, a 74 year old man came to my practice with the following symptoms:  glaucoma (pressure on the eyes), high blood pressure, TMJ (jaw pain), and depression.  He was on medication for the high blood pressure and the glaucoma, and Advil for his pain.  

But when I looked at him from an Alexander point of view, i.e., how he was using his body, it was easy to see that there was a collapse in his chest and his shoulders were slumped.  This created a downward pull on his neck muscles up to his jaw, causing the extreme pain in that area. There was tremendous muscle tension in and around the eyes.  Would releasing this tension have any effect of this man’s symptoms?  

By directing him into a new way of using himself, he automatically stood up straighter.  His chest was now higher, and the release of the pull on his neck immediately relieved the pain in the jaw.  He was getting more oxygen to all parts of his system, allowing for the state of depression to lift, and his blood pressure returned to normal.  The release of his tension around the eyes brought his glaucoma eye pressure numbers down to the “normal” range.  Over a period of 10 weeks he went off the blood pressure medication, and went from 6 drops of eye medication to 1 drop .  

The changes this man experienced in one lesson – going from one foot into the grave into a state of well-being that seemed almost miraculous to him, are relatively common in my practice.  I tell all my clients: This is not a one time fix. Our identities are wrapped up in our physical habits and posture.  It takes repeated lessons to change one’s self, but I have seen it pay off for those willing to invest the time.  We are not doomed to illness if we are willing to learn to use our bodies as they were designed to function.

Welcome to my blog on the Alexander Technique.