Consultant advocates doctors be trained in Alexander Technique

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


A RETIRED west of Ireland consultant has advocated far greater awareness of the Alexander Technique in medical training and practice.

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon Kieran Tobin said he found the relief gained from the technique to be “quite incredible”, after he was treated for chronic neck problems. The technique purports to improve body posture and movement and relieve chronic stiffness, tension and stress.

Mr Tobin said he believes medical students should have far greater awareness of the technique’s many benefits.

A past president of the Irish Otolaryngological, Head and Neck Society and a past president of the Royal Society of Medicine’s ENT section, Mr Tobin was speaking at the publication in Galway last Friday of a new book on the subject by practitioner Richard Brennan.

Mr Tobin took early retirement from medicine. He hoped the change of direction would give him the opportunity to recover from serious neck problems which he had developed during his working years.

“This was not the case, and limitation of cervical [and thoracic] movement became quite an intrusion on my life,” he writes in the introduction to Brennan’s new book, Change Your Posture Change Your Life .

“Physiotherapy and medication gave only short-term improvement,” he says. “On being introduced to the Alexander Technique, I was somewhat sceptical that anything was going to work, but can only describe the relief gained, and maintained, as quite incredible.

“[My] general posture has improved, and neck mobility has returned to that last experienced more than 20 years ago. What more could one ask for?” he notes.

The technique was developed at the turn of the 20th century by Tasmanian-born actor Frederick Matthias Alexander.

Brennan relates in his book how George Bernard Shaw was 80, suffering with acute pain due to angina and over-curvature of the lumbar spine, and needed help to get up three steps when he arrived at Alexander’s practice.

After a course of lessons, he lived another 14 years in “excellent health” until the age of 94 when he fell off a ladder while pruning trees.

Brennan points out the problems start in school, when children are forced to hunch over flat desks and to carry heavy bags. Ironically, the old style raised wooden desks used in Irish schools were less likely to cause such problems.

He believes vast savings could be made in the health system if such contributory factors were acknowledged by the Irish educational system.

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