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Old method to ease back pain now popular

  |   Jan. 22, 2012 at 4:23 PM
MIAMI, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A little known European holistic technique that relieves back pain, dating back to the 1890s, is gaining popularity in the United States, fitness experts say.

Ever since Dr. Paul Donohue of Florida mentioned the technique in his January "Good Health" column in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as a way to improve back pain, a South Florida spa that offers lessons on the method has been "flooded with phone calls," its instructor said.

The method is named after F. Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor who developed its principles to help him overcome breathing problems and poor stage presence. It focuses on the skeletal frame and is based on the theory that sitting, standing and moving the wrong way throws the body out of alignment, making the muscles do unnecessary extra work.

Although not well known among the public or fitness experts, the technique became wildly popular among actors for bringing poise and ease of movement to a performance, including Hollywood actors like the late Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams and singer Paul McCartney, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

Since a 2008 study of the technique published in the British Medical Journal, the Alexander method has gained new credibility. The researchers found 24 lessons over a year's time had significant, long-term effects on flexibility and coordination, and reduced the number of days patients felt back pain by up to 86 percent.

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