Falling apart

Woman holding the back of her neck, looking like she is in pain
Photo courtesy Karolina Grabowska

Last month the BBC reported an explosion in the numbers of people not working due to health problems – 2.5 million people in the UK, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data [1]. This is an increase of 400,000 more people compared with before the start of the Covid pandemic. Now, one in 14 of the working population are off sick.

An increase in back and neck pain are main factors in the growing numbers of people not being able to work. It was suggested that working from home during the pandemic might be responsible for increased back and neck pain, perhaps through sitting on unsuitable chairs.

It’s natural that we want to look for explanations for problems but, as is so often the case, the idea that such a huge increase was mainly caused by one simple factor such as the chair you are sitting on seems rather unlikely. Certainly, workstation set-up is important, particularly if your job is largely desk-bound. Alexander Technique teachers can help you with this, but they can also help you with what comes down to being the most important ‘causal’ factor – ourselves and how we go about our lives.

It is well established now that the old pain model is outdated and unhelpful. Yes, pain following an injury is an important warning signal that we should take heed of. However, in the case of persistent pain it’s a whole lot more complex.

When we experience pain it is always real (there’s no such thing as ‘you’re imagining it, it’s all in your head’) but with long-term pain, there is often little or no connection to any tissue damage – this may have healed up ages ago, yet the pain persists. It is now understood that pain is a ‘whole-person’ experience, and depends on what’s going on biologically within us, how we respond to the pain and related factors and the life situation that we find ourselves in. Pain is bio-psycho-social in nature [2]. So, if we want to address persistent pain, we need to take our whole mind-body self into account and this is exactly what the Alexander Technique is all about, giving us a practical tool to help ourselves navigate through life for positive change.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the same ONS report also showed a huge increase in mental health issues in the UK, particularly in younger people. Again, they cited Covid lockdowns but, of course, we’re also facing a climate crisis, wars and a Westminster political establishment that only seems to care about looking after the interests of (already) rich people. No wonder our mind-bodies are falling apart! Learning the Alexander Technique is not a panacea but it is one very powerful way of looking after ourselves.


  1. BBC report on Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-65596283
  2. David Butler and Lorimer Moseley Explain Pain. NOIgroup publications