A BALM FOR BACK PAIN
Recently, Lazlo Block, SVP, head of People Operations at google (also known as HR) recommended the Alexander Technique for desk bound back pain. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. Muscoloskeletal disorders (strains, sprains, and pains) account for 29% of days missed in the workplace for injury or illness according to spine-health.com--nearly a third of all days taken for this reason. Lower back injuries represent a large segment of these. The loss in productivity from these days missed is obvious. Alexander Technique is clinically supported to make significant improvements in back and neck pain management, and could restore much of this lost work time. These numbers don't include occupational injuries in jobs that require physical strain that might be prevented with Alexander Technique work.
2. We spend over 50 billion dollars annually on back pain treatment according to the American Chiropractic Association. The potential cost to employers speaks for itself.
3. Because the Alexander Technique focuses on prevention, it will not only help people with active issues but may keep others from developing problems. It also is cost effective and efficient: other problems such as carpel tunnel and shoulder pain might be cleared up in the process; and just 6 one-on-one Alexander lessons can be effective--a steal in comparison to physical therapy or medication.
POSITIVE SIDE EFFECTS
In addition to the benefits for back pain, there are other fringe benefits to having an A.T. educated workplace:
1. Stress Management--Alexander Technique sessions can be deeply relaxing, and equip students to handle and release tension as it comes up, helping workers under stressful conditions and preventing problems and errors.
2. Process Oriented--Alexander work asks students to be aware of their habits and gives them a framework for changing them, a process that can be applied to mental and workplace habits as well. It also asks students to focus on the quality of process--what A.T. Teachers call the 'means-whereby'-- rather than the result, which has the effect of learning to 'keep your eye on the ball'.
3. Communication Skills--Alexander Technique can be wonderful for working on presentation and communication skills: the body and breath have a tremendous impact on our ability to effectively convey meaning.
How Can I Get an Alexander Teacher to Come Work with my People?
1. Host a Workshop/Intensive: Though not as effective as one-on-one lessons, a workshop can give your staff the basics and give useful workplace tips. Workshops can be adjusted and targeted to meet your most urgent needs. An intensive or workshop series gives an even more of a chance for the training to transform your office.
2. Host Lessons at your Workplace: If you have the space, consider having a teacher set up in a conference room for the day to do one-on-one sessions with workers and help them with their specific needs. One could also offer a limited number of recurring lesson slots for workers in need and help them to change over time.
3. Subsidize Lessons: At present, U.S. insurance does not cover Alexander lessons despite the scientific evidence and cost-efficiency that led the UK's National Health Service to adopt it. As an alternative, consider giving a subsidy to help workers who want to take a basic 6-lesson series to help them to be affordable.
If you research chronic back pain on the internet, you will find hundreds if not thousands of potential solutions. Everything from heating pads, to pain shots, to 'posture devices', to crystals and sound therapy claim to help relieve or even cure chronic back pain. With all of these potential solutions available, it can be hard to see why back pain is still the leading cause of disability in people under 45 in America (2.4 million Americans are on disability for it total), why it is the number two reason people visit their doctor, or why it effects 8 out of 10 people in their lifetime. Additionally, we spend over 50 billion dollars a year on treatments*. Surely, if all these solutions work, it wouldn't be such a problem.
The blunt truth is that most of these methods don't work consistently for chronic pain--even conventionally accepted medical treatments such as some physical therapy regimens or even surgeries. Additionally, many of these therapies are aimed at treating pain (aka the symptom of a problem) rather than the cause of the issue or preventing future problems. And most of these methods have limited or no scientific support.
The Alexander Technique does, and this the thing that sets it apart from the noise.
This is a small cross section of the body of research that has been conducted on the effectiveness of A.T. for back pain. Systematic peer review rates the evidence that A.T. is effective for back pain as 'Strong'.
What is even more remarkable is how low risk lessons are--many back pain interventions carry significant risk of injury or side effects (consider the epidemic of opoid addiction from prescriptions meant to curb back pain or the risk of surgery). A.T. has no significant risk as a method of handling back injury and is essentially safe.
There is still much research to be done into the process and effects of A.T., but you can enter into sessions with a certified teacher confidently knowing that it is not just mumbo-jumbo: the effectiveness of this method is well documented, and it is time for it to take a more central roll in treatment than unsupported or ineffective alternatives.
*statistics taken from the Mayo Clinic and American Chiropractic Association.
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.