Claire Quinn (First
published in STATNews, September 2008)
I am a
sufferer from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease1
(CMT), also known as Hereditary Motor and Sensory
Neuropathy. I also suffer from inflammation of the
peripheral nervous system and associated respiratory
problems. CMT causes muscle wasting, drop foot and pain,
resulting in weakness of the limbs and loss of balance.
ago I had a course of 30 weekly Alexander lessons with Anna
Cooper. This was a turning point in learning to manage my
condition and I have had regular refreshers ever since. The Technique has given me independence from most of the aids
offered to CMT sufferers, such as orthotics or the very
uncomfortable leg splints I tried in the past, and it has
helped me manage my condition very successfully. Practising
the Alexander Technique helps me understand how best to use
my body and has helped with standing, walking and keeping
starting lessons I realised that I rarely had enough weight
on my heels and tended to lean forwards. I was surprised to
find that a tiny adjustment such as releasing my neck makes
a big difference to my ability to walk and stay upright. I
often stop during a walk to adjust my body, and can then
continue more safely and comfortably.
I am prone
to falls, but learning to free my neck as I start to fall
has been a great help. I used to fall several times a week,
but since getting to grips with release and direction my
falls have reduced to perhaps once a month. People are
sometimes quite astounded at how I manage to recover my balance. When you apply what sounds like such a simple
adjustment successfully for the first time and feel the
difference, itís as though a lightís been switched on.
other benefits I have noticed from using the Technique.
Physical exertion can make me weak and I used to sit down
to recover. When possible I now do a semi-supine instead.
This helps me to recover more quickly, and I can get on
with the day -not just physically but also mentally.
semi-supine I feel more relaxed and less tense in every way.
Respiratory problems (i.e. muscle weakness and
diaphragmatic paralysis) make me breathless, but I find my
breathing evens out after lying down, and I recover more
past two years my respiratory muscles have stopped
deteriorating and continue to remain stable. My consultant
was preparing to give me oxygen at night but is surprised by
the fact that I have not needed it yet.
employ the Technique on a daily (if not hourly) basis,
building it into my everyday life, and have resisted the
use of walking aids for several years because of this skill.
Anna has taught me a number of strategies to manage my
mobility, breathing, pain and sleep.
consultants have been pleased and surprised with my general
strength and ability to cope and have stopped pressuring me
to choose orthotics over the Technique. However, despite
evidence of the positive effects the Technique has had on
my wellbeing, I still find the medical profession reluctant
to embrace it. I believe this to be more about the pressures
of working within the NHS framework than about a distrust
of the Alexander Technique itself.
Technique has been life-changing for me. I cannot imagine a
life without it.
The disease is named after the three physicians who
Claire Quinn 2008