CLINICAL TRIAL SHOWS ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE LESSONS MOST EFFECTIVE
Clinical trial results published in the British Medical Journal (August, 2008) conclude that Alexander Technique lessons proved the most effective, and provided long term benefits to chronic back pain sufferers.
The trial, comparing the results of different interventions for chronic and recurrent back pain, involved 579 patients and was conducted in 64 general medical practices in England, being funded by the Medical Research Council and the NHS Research and Development Fund.
Four different interventions for chronic and recurrent back pain were studied : (1) normal GP care, (2) six sessions of massage, (3) six Alexander Technique lessons and (4) 24 Alexander Technique lessons. In addition, half of the patients allocated to each intervention were prescribed aerobic exercise (30 minutes of brisk walking, or the equivalent each day).
Of all the approaches tested, 24 one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons from registered teachers, at least half taken within the first three months of the trial, proved to be the most beneficial with important improvements in function, quality of life and reduction of days in pain for the patients, and no adverse effects. Following 24 Alexander Technique lessons the average number of activities limited by back pain had fallen by 42%. The number of days in pain was only three per month compared with 24 days in pain in the control group, one year after the trial started. Alexander Technique lessons, and exercise, but not massage, remained effective at one year. A series of six Alexander Technique lessons followed by GP-prescribed exercise was about 70% as beneficial as 24 Alexander Technique lessons.
Since the effect of massage on activities was no longer significant by one year, whereas the effect of Alexander Technique lessons was maintained, the trial authors concluded that the long-term benefits of taking Alexander Technique lessons are unlikely to be due to placebo effects of attention and touch and more likely to be due to active learning of the Technique.
This trial is one of the few major studies to show significant long-term benefits for people with chronic non-specific low-back pain which is one of the most common health conditions and disabilities in adults, affecting general well-being and quality of life. Back pain accounts for up to five million lost working days per year in the UK
The report states: “Lessons in the Alexander Technique offer an individualised approach designed to develop lifelong skills for self care that help people recognise, understand, and avoid poor habits affecting postural tone and neuromuscular coordination. Lessons involve continuous personalised assessment of the individual patterns of habitual musculoskeletal use when stationary and in movement; paying particular attention to release of unwanted head, neck, and spinal muscle tension, guided by verbal instruction and hand contact, allowing decompression of the spine; help and feedback from hand contact and verbal instruction to improve musculoskeletal use when stationary and in movement; and spending time between lessons practising and applying the Technique.”
Commenting on the results of the trial, Kamal Thapen, chairperson of STAT stated: “For over 100 years people from all walks of life have learned the Alexander Technique to overcome back pain. We are delighted that this major clinical study now demonstrates that Alexander Technique lessons are effective.”
To read the full study click here.