Alexander Technique: It's Not Brain Surgery But It May Help
Operations can be painful, and not just for the patient. So can the Alexander Technique help surgeons be more comfortable and improve their skills when operating?
Like many of us – dentists, musicians and hairdressers, for example - surgeons are required to perform at their best while maintaining a potentially damaging posture for long periods of time.looked at whether the Alexander Technique could help surgeons deal with this situation. Research from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center looked at “the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique at improving the surgical posture and technical performance of urological surgeons” performing minimally invasive procedures. These procedures “require surgeons and assistants to maintain awkward, non-neutral and static postures of the trunk and extremities. This limits the natural shifting of their posture and can lead to discomfort, fatigue and even injury".
So did surgeons benefit from studying the technique?
The researchers found that: "The Alexander Technique training program resulted in significant improvement in posture and trunk and shoulder endurance. Improved endurance and posture during surgery reduces the occurrence of surgical fatigue. Intra-operative fatigue has been shown to be associated with surgical errors. AT training has the potential to reduce the occurrence of fatigue-related surgical errors."
While most of us won’t be performing any minimally invasive procedures today (at least not legally) this is still relevant to all of us. For dentists, musicians, and hairdressers, the benefits should be obvious. By learning to hold and move your body in an efficient way, you can carry on performing at your best for longer periods of time, while not gradually damaging yourself in the process.
Sitting at a computer isn’t brain surgery either
For those of us sitting for long periods in front of a computer, the same applies. Learning to use your body efficiently while sitting will similarly improve endurance and minimise injury. So, it isn’t simply what you’re doing, but rather how you are doing it, that matters for your health. It isn’t standing to cut hair that damages your neck - it’s not knowing how to stand well. And it isn’t sitting at a computer that damages your back - it’s not knowing how to sit well.
Most of us put a lot of time, thought and study into our profession, but how many of us consider our own bodies as an important part of the process? The way we hold and move our bodies affects how well we perform. It affects our endurance, our skill, and our comfort, whether we are concert pianists, elite athletes, or computer operators. So the surgeon, the dentist, the hairdresser and the musician will all be better at their jobs if they know how to use their own bodies efficiently. And so will you, whatever your profession.
First, do no harm to yourself
Many musicians study the Alexander Technique as part of their training for this very reason – it helps prevent injury and improve performance. And perhaps one day it will be common for surgeons to study it too. The researchers mentioned above hope to show that “this technique works to improve surgical ergonomics and proficiency so that it can be incorporated as part of graduate surgical training".
And I’d certainly like my surgeon to be as comfortable as possible.
Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see firstname.lastname@example.org .or email Bradley on