THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: MISUSE IN PREGNANCY

In four-legged animals the weight of pregnancy is distributed over four legs, but in humans all the extra weight (the baby, the uterus and the breasts) is carried at the front of the body. Because there is more weight in front there is an increased tendency for the body to fall forwards. The muscles at the back of the body therefore have to work more to maintain the balance. From an Alexander perspective, misuse is when this increased muscular activity is concentrated in specific areas.

The way in which a pregnant woman compensates for the increased imbalance will reflect her habitual misuse. If she has a tendency to an over-tense posture, she will pull her head and upper back backwards, by over-contracting the muscles of the lower back. The woman with a more collapsed posture will give up all attempt to retain her uprightness. In both cases the deep muscles in the pelvis and the muscles of the legs have to work extremely hard to maintain the balance, and there will be excessive tension in the joints, which will restrict their range of movement. The ligaments are also put under a lot of strain, because instead of doing their normal job -which is to make the joints more stable - they have to do a great deal of the work of supporting the body (which should be done by the muscles).

Unfortunately, instead of stabilizing the balance, this way of compensating creates a vicious circle of misuse. In both the over-tense posture and the collapsed posture, the lower back is allowed to curve forwards excessively, which throws the weight of the baby even more forwards. The body then has to further compensate by contracting muscles in an attempt to bring the centre of gravity back. And so it goes on, made worse by the fact that the baby meanwhile is increasing in size. This gives us the commonly accepted image of the pregnant woman having a very hollow back with the pregnancy carried far out in front. Some pregnancy books even suggest this is a physiologically natural aspect of pregnancy!

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WOMENS PROBLEMS: MIGRAINE

Headaches are fairly common about period time. As we have already seen, they are one of the frequent nervous system complaints that many women endure at this time. But migraine is quite a lot different to ordinary heads. This hateful thing grabs me all of a sudden,' Rozanna said. 'Often I will waken up during the night, or in the morning, with this terrible hot, burning, boring pain. It is much like a red-hot poker being thrust through my head. Often it is just above the left eyeball. It seems to be in the same spot each time. I just want to lie in bed for the rest of the day, pull die blankets over my head and let the world roll by.

'I often want to vomit. If I try to eat (which I date not do) it would certainly all come up in a moment. Bright light makes it worse; if it comes on when I'm awake, I might see some bright flashes before it starts. And I might get pins and needles in my lips or tongue or finger-tips. It all varies a bit. Fortunately, it seems to last between 12 and 24 hours, then vanishes, whether I take medication or not.'

There, in a nutshell, you have Rozanna's description of a typical migraine. Why some women suffer from it just before a period is unknown. But there is little doubt it is related to some imbalance of the oestrogen-progesterone hormonal system.

Many women taking the oral contraceptive pill (also a combination of these same hormones) also complain of migraines as an unsought side effect. It can be extremely trying and very painful, whether related to the pill, to menstruation, or whatever.

Women who suffer from migraine independently from their periods may find the condition worse at period time.

Somehow these hormones appear to spark off other chemicals in the body—serotonin and others—which have the capacity for firstly constricting, then violently dilating the blood vessels of the brain. This results in the severe, pounding, searing pain of migraine.

A variety of measures is available, but visiting your doctor for medication is the best idea. A drug called ergotamine is widely used for an established attack. It may be taken orally. If there is doubt of it remaining in the stomach, it is also available as a suppository or injection.

Recently different forms of medication have been used with success in migraine—for example, pizotifen, (taken regularly as a preventive), metoclopromide (by injection followed by simple aspirin orally, It stops the vomiting), and more recently the family of blood pressure drugs called the beta-blockers. They now seem to be capable of preventing migraine also if taken regularly. And there are various other measures. But, once more, you should seek the advice of your own doctor, and follow the treatment specifically tailored for you. Some doctors have found that acupuncture and medical hypnotherapy are very successful with some patients. These are non-drug routines, but you are advised to see only doctors specially trained in these fields for best results.

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