Alexander Technique for those with Parkinsons
Alexander Technique for those with Parkinsons
It was with no small satisfaction that I recently heard of the decision by NICE to update their guidelines on Parkinson’s as follows:-
'1.7.4 Consider the Alexander Technique for people with Parkinson's disease who are experiencing balance or motor function problems.’
On further investigation what I discovered came as no surprise. STAT , the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique had been concerned enough to make a case for the work as originally, the Technique had been disregarded, on the grounds that it wouldn’t do anything physiotherapy couldn’t. In the Alexander world we are quite used to this. Too often even well qualified people of little Alexander experience and less understanding make outrageous claims for a list of popular practices that are supposed to do what AT does. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I was great to see STAT take a stand on this one by citing a research project where a significant sized sample group of Parkinson’s sufferers were tested for the effectiveness of the AT.
Previous smaller studies had shown that AT helped with movement, balance and mitigation of the accompanying ‘shaking’, and equally important, the management of the depression that may come with this condition. From my own experience of working with Parkinson’s folk I have witnessed a man go from a shuffling walk with a stick, week one, to being able to jog a quarter mile by week eight. A woman, who struggled to walk with a stick within an hour, walked out carrying her stick. More clients had less dramatic, but still very beneficial outcomes, and only one that didn’t resonate beneficially with the new AT thinking.
As I see it there is possibly more than one effect happening here as a result of changing how we think about how we are and what we think we do. I would argue that AT is the first scientific means of navigating an ocean of psycho-physical possibilities in the synergy of the human mind and body. The truth is though that this is just the beginning, by using conscious thought to take a productive control over not only the muscular-skeletal processes, but beneficially creating a shift in the function of all the internal organs and processes too. There is much more as yet undiscovered, than that which we can be sure of. For example, it has been observed that in cases of a multiple personality disorder that depending on which personality is being exhibited, that the eye colour can be different. One personality can be diabetic and injection dependant for their supply of insulin. Another personality in the same physiological body is not diabetic at all. In the USA where they have more resources to investigate similar phenomena, a project was established to look at the placebo effect. This when given to severe Parkinson’s patients showed that their brains very quickly produced dopamine, which they were not supposed to be able to do. So a question for the future must be, “Is it that when we have a condition of failure in the body, is it that it can’t do its job, or that it simply doesn’t. If the latter then how do we access the conditions that allow it to do so.?” From the two given examples nothing has obviously been altered from a purely physical perspective, but a change in the state of mind.
In my publicity about Parkinson’s, I make the point that if nothing else is happening AT helps get rid of a whole raft of hidden interferences we all go around with, which you don’t want in any event, let alone when something you have is trying to take you off your feet. The trial that satisfied NICE showed up a couple of interesting things. The group was split into three. All carried on with their usual medication. One third did nothing else; the next third had massage with properly qualified therapists at the same frequency as the last third had lessons with STAT qualified AT teachers. This eliminated the possibility that any kind of touch was the active ingredient. The AT group made considerable progress, better balance, much easier movement, the other two thirds did not. Also beyond six months when for a progressive condition you would expect an increase in medication, it was true of the other two thirds but not the AT group. Their medication levels remained unchanged.
Concluding then that AT is clearly beneficial in the case of Parkinson’s. Whether or not it directly affects the underlying mechanisms within the condition itself is unclear. While I would not force that claim neither will I close the door on the possibility. As the man himself said,
“When an investigation comes to be made, it will be found that all we are doing in the work is the same as in nature when the conditions are right. The difference being that we are doing it consciously.”
The key to success in this, as always, is the pupil themselves. The desire for change and the willingness to do the work are essential. Alexander Technique is not a treatment. No one can force a person to be well if they don’t want to be.
If you'd like to know more about this or to talk about how Alexander Technique can be of benefit to you, contact our resident Alexander Teacher Patrick Pearson MSTAT to discuss your situation
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About the Centre
The Centre for Integral Health was started in 2013 by director Ben Calder after studying Integral theory since 2011 and over 10 years of professional practice of kinesiology and Bowen fascia Release Technique, coupled with the desire to explore the application of the Integral Model in relation to health.read more