Randomised Controlled Trial of Alexander Technique Lessons, Exercise, and Massage (ATEAM) for Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain. Little P et al (2008). British Medical Journal 337:a884.
This 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal followed 579 patients with chronic and recurrent back pain. Patients were randomized to receive massage, six Alexander Technique lessons, 24 Alexander Technique lessons, or no intervention. In addition, half of the subjects in each group were encouraged to walk regularly. One year later, the group with no intervention had 21 days of pain per month. The group with massage had 14 days of pain per month. The group with six Alexander Technique lessons reported 11 days of pain per month, and the group with 24 Alexander Technique lessons reported three days of pain per month, an 85% reduction in pain compared to those with no intervention. And, no adverse effects were noted.
Taking Charge, Choosing a New Direction: A Service Evaluation of Alexander Technique Lessons for Pain Clinic Patients (SEAT): an Approach to Pain Management McClean, S. and Wye, L. (June 2012) Project Report. UWE Bristol, Bristol.
This clinical trial demonstrated that Alexander Technique lessons were effect and had therapeutic value for treating chronic back pain sufferers. Benefits included improvement in quality of life and patients’ management of pain. Over half of the patients were able to stop or reduce their medication, and their pain had less of an effect on their daily lives. Behavioral changes including changes in awareness and self-knowledge were also noted. Costs to the NHS (National Health Service) for the patients’ pain-related treatment was reduced by half.
Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in medical and health-related conditions: a systematic review Woodman J.P., Moore N.R. International Journal of Clinical Practice January 2012
This review evaluated the effectiveness and safety of Alexander Technique lessons for various health-related conditions. Strong evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons for chronic back pain and moderate evidence in disability related to Parkinson’s disease was noted.Preliminary findings suggest Alexander Technique lessons may improve balance in the elderly, posture, chronic pain, respiratory function and stuttering, however, there was insufficient evidence to support recommendations in these areas.
Alexander Technique: Training for the self-management of workers to prevent musculoskeletal disorders Mora i Griso, Mireia. Foment del Treball Nacional de Catalunya (2011)
In this study, the Alexander Technique was applied as a tool to prevent occupational risks in different organizational settings throughout the world.
Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practictioners of the Alexander Technique. Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Day B. Gait and Posture, June 2011.
The coordination of 14 teachers of the Alexander Technique was compared to 15 healthy control subjects while standing from a seated position in a chair. The Alexander Technique teachers achieved a smoother, more continuous movement than the healthy control subjects, consistent with previous claims that the Alexander Technique teaches more efficient movement.
Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training. Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Cordo PJand Ames KE. Human Movement Science, 2011 February; 30(1): 74–89.
This study quantified postural tone by measuring resistance in the hips, trunk, and neck to very slow twisting during standing. Comparing teachers of the Alexander Technique to control subjects of the same age, resistance was 50% lower while phase advance was greater. Similar changes (to a lesser degree) occurred in subjects with lower back pain after undergoing ten weekly lessons in the Alexander Technique, suggesting that the Alexander Technique enhances dynamic modulation of postural tone.
The impact of the Alexander Technique in Improving Posture During Minimally Invasive Surgery. Reddy P et al (2010). The American Urological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco. (Paper) (Poster presentation)
Surgeons who underwent Alexander Technique lessons improved their ability to perform laproscopic skills, including suturing and cutting.
Patients’ views of receiving lessons in the Alexander Technique and an exercise prescription for managing back pain in the ATEAM trial. Yardley L et al (2010). Family Practice 27 (2):198-204.
Patients from the 2008 British Medical Journal study (aka the ATEAM study) were interviewed regarding their experience with the Alexander Technique lessons and exercise. They noted several obstacles to exercising but few barriers to learning the Alexander Technique, since it ‘made sense’ and could be practiced while conducting everyday activities or relaxing, and the teachers provided personal advice and support. (Abstract)
Improvement in Automatic Postural Coordination Following Alexander Technique Lessons in a Person with Low Back Pain. Cacciatore TW, Horak FB, Henry SM (2005). Physical Therapy, 85(6):565-78.
A client with a 25-year history of lower back pain describes the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique in this case study. After lessons, her postural responses and balance improved while pain decreased. A thorough explanation of the Alexander Technique from a scientific perspective may be found in the introduction.
Effects of Alexander Technique on Muscle Activation During a Computer-Mouse Task: Potential for Reduction in Repetitive Strain Injuries. Shafarman E, Geisler MW (2003). American Psychological Association Convention, Toronto, Canada.
In this preliminary study of computer mouse use, subjects without Alexander Technique training could reduce muscle activation only by slowing down, whereas subjects with Alexander Technique experience were able to reduce muscle activation while continuing to move rapidly, therefore the Alexander Technique may be helpful in the prevention of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The work was written up in Alexander Journal, 21. Available from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT, an AmSAT-affiliated society in the United Kingdom) or from the lead author of the study: E. Shafarman.
Randomized Controlled Trial of the Alexander Technique for Ideopathic Parkinson’s Disease.Stallibrass C, Sissons P, Chalmers C (2002). Clinical Rehabilitation, 16(7):695-708.
A group of 93 subjects received either no treatment, massage, or Alexander Technique lessons. Those receiving Alexander Technique lessons (but not massage) had significant improvement in self-assessed disability both immediately after the lessons and six months later.
Functional reach improvement in normal older women after Alexander Technique instruction.Dennis (1999). Journal of Gerontology – Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences, 54A(1): M8-M11.
Subjects who received Alexander Technique lessons exhibited a 36% improvement in forward-reaching distance (a common measure of balance control), while age matched control subjects receiving no intervention showed a 6% decrease over the same time period.
Enhanced Respiratory Muscular Function in Normal Adults after Lessons in Proprioceptive Musculo-skeletal Education without Exercises. Austin J, Ausubel P (1992). Chest, 102:486-490.
This study demonstrated that Alexander Technique lessons improved the function of respiratory muscles in adults using spirometry tests.
Early Experiences of a Multidisciplinary Pain Management Programme. Fisher K (1988). Holistic Medicine, 3(1):47-56. (Note: This journal has been renamed to Journal of Interprofessional Medicine.)
Subjects with chronic pain received various interventions during the study. At all phases (during the study, after three months, and one year later) the subjects rated the Alexander Technique as the most helpful method for alleviating their chronic pain.
Method for Changing Stereotyped Response Patterns by the Inhibition of Certain Postural Sets. Jones FP (1965). Psychological Review, 72, (3):196-214.
Postural habits may be profoundly affected by the Alexander Technique, specifically by learning and applying the concept of inhibition. Frank Pierce Jones pioneered the study of human movement and was a teacher of the Alexander Technique. A collection of his publications can be found in the book Freedom to Change – The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique (available in AmSAT Bookstore).
Nobel Lecture entitled Ethology and Stress Diseases. Tinbergen N (1973).
Nikolaas Tinbergen, Nobel Laureate, wrote about F. M. Alexander, the importance of Alexander’s discoveries and the benefits he and his wife experienced from lessons. He strongly recommended it as a sophisticated form of rehabilitation for all stress-related diseases, i.e., rheumatism, high blood pressure, breathing problems and sleep disorders.
View the video of Nikolaas Tinbergen’s Nobel lecture, the last third of which he devoted to a discussion of Alexander’s work and its beneficial effects.
A Study of Stress Amongst Professional Musicians. Nielsen M (1994). In: The Alexander Technique: Medical and Physiological Aspects, Chris Stevens (Ed.) STAT Books, London.
Performance stress was evaluated in musicians. The study found that Alexander Technique lessons were as effective as beta-blocker medications in controlling the stress response during an orchestra performance.
For additional research information:
- AlexanderTechnique.com maintains a great list of current research links.
- Review STAT’s (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique) research page.
- Search the AmSAT resource database for additional publications.
- Try searching for “Alexander Technique” at pubmed.gov and scholar.google.com.