Hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) are conditions that affect the connective tissues in our bodies, leading to a range of physical challenges. Managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life for individuals with these conditions can be a complex task. One approach that has shown promise in helping those with hypermobility and EDS is the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we'll explore the benefits of the Alexander Technique for individuals living with hypermobility and EDS, shedding light on how this gentle practice can offer relief and support.
Understanding Hypermobility and EDS
Before delving into the Alexander Technique, it's crucial to grasp the nature of hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Hypermobility is a condition where the joints have a greater range of motion than is typical. While it can be found in otherwise healthy individuals, it's also a common feature of EDS, a group of genetic connective tissue disorders. EDS can manifest in various ways, including joint hypermobility, skin that bruises easily, and a heightened risk of dislocations. Managing pain, fatigue, and physical limitations becomes a daily challenge for those with these conditions.
The Alexander Technique: An Overview
The Alexander Technique is a method that focuses on improving posture, movement, and overall body awareness. Developed by F.M. Alexander in the early 20th century, it has gained recognition for its ability to address a wide range of musculoskeletal issues, making it particularly beneficial for individuals with hypermobility and EDS.
The Alexander Technique has been shown to have positive effects on people with hypermobility and EDS. A study by Dr. Philip Bull found that people with hypermobility who took Alexander Technique lessons reported significant improvements in pain, disability, quality of life, anxiety, and depression.
The Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises or a quick fix. It is a skill that you can learn from a qualified teacher in one-to-one lessons. The teacher will observe how you move, sit, stand, and lie down, and guide you with gentle touch and verbal instructions to help you discover a more natural and comfortable way of being. You will also learn how to apply the principles of the Alexander Technique to your daily life, so that you can benefit from it in any situation.
The Alexander Technique is a method of learning how to use your body more efficiently and with less tension. It teaches you how to become more aware of your posture, movement, and breathing, and how to change your habits that cause unnecessary strain on your joints and muscles. The Alexander Technique can help you to:
- Reduce pain and inflammation by improving your alignment and balance
- Prevent injuries and complications by avoiding overstretching and stressing your joints
- Increase your energy and stamina by using less effort and more coordination
- Enhance your performance and well-being in any activity, such as sports, music, or work
Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Hypermobility and EDS
The Alexander Technique can be especially beneficial for people with hypermobility/Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, as it can help them to develop strategies to deal with their condition and improve their quality of life. Here are some of the ways that the Alexander Technique can help:
- How to be comfortable in your body, whether at rest or in movement: With hypermobile joints, sitting and standing often involve 'locking' joints at one end of their range of movement as a way of stabilising them. This is bad news for your ligaments and tendons, and actually weakens them over time. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to avoid the locking and yet be able to sit or stand comfortably, in balance, with much less effort.
- How to prevent misuse and overuse - such as overstretching when doing exercises, or holding excessive muscular tension - and how to move with ease in daily life: The Alexander Technique helps you to become more aware of how you use your body and how you respond to stimuli. You can learn to avoid habits that cause strain and stress on your joints and muscles, such as overstretching when doing exercises, or holding excessive muscular tension in certain areas. You can also learn to move with more ease and fluidity in daily life, by using your whole body in a coordinated way.
- How to improve your balance and coordination: As tension reduces, your balance and coordination can improve. The Alexander Technique helps you to develop a reliable body awareness, which can help you to sense where you are in space and how you are moving. You can also learn to use your eyes more effectively, which can help with spatial orientation.
- How to improve your breathing: The Alexander Technique teaches you how to breathe more freely and naturally, by allowing your ribs and diaphragm to move without restriction. This can improve your oxygen intake and circulation, as well as reduce anxiety and stress.
- How to cope better with pain and fatigue: The Alexander Technique can help you to manage pain and fatigue by giving you tools to relax your mind and body, such as lying down in a semi-supine position with your head supported by books. This practice can help you to release tension, restore energy and calm your nervous system. You can also learn to use constructive thinking to change your attitude towards pain and fatigue, and find ways to cope better with them. The charity Ehlers-Danlos Support UK recommends trying the Alexander Technique as a pain management tool.
For more on on the Alexander Technique this is an informative talk at The Ehlers-Danlos Society's 2019 conference:
The Alexander Technique offers a holistic and gentle approach to improving the lives of individuals with hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. By focusing on posture, body awareness, muscle tension, and coordination, this technique can help manage pain, increase mobility, and enhance overall well-being. While it may not be a cure, the Alexander Technique can be a valuable addition to the toolkit of those living with these conditions, offering a path to a more comfortable and functional life. If you or a loved one is dealing with hypermobility or EDS, consider exploring the benefits of the Alexander Technique with a certified practitioner to discover the positive impact it can have on your quality of life.