A randomised, controlled clinical trial was funded by the Foundation for Integrated Medicine, the Parkinson’s Disease Society, REMEDI and the University of Westminster. It showed that the skills learnt in Alexander Technique (AT) lessons, when applied in daily life, lead to sustained benefit for people with Parkinson’s.
A total of 93 people with clinically diagnosed idiopathic Parkinson’s were recruited into the trial, mainly through publicity in the national press.
They were randomly allocated to three groups:
- a control group (no intervention)
- a group who received 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique (two lessons a week for 12 weeks)
- a group who received 24 sessions of therapeutic massage (two sessions a week for 12 weeks) to control for the likely effects of touch and personal attention in AT lessons.
The groups were balanced for age, gender, and duration and severity of illness using a randomising computer program. All participants continued their pharmacological treatment for Parkinson’s throughout the trial and received usual care.
The main outcome measure was the Self-rated Parkinson’s Disease Disability Scale. Participants rated their performance of everyday activities both at best and at worst times of day: the ‘worst’ times excluded periods of freezing. There were five secondary outcome measures, including one for depression.
One-to-one Alexander Technique lessons provide significant and sustained benefits for people with Parkinson’s. The results of the main measure clearly showed:
- Of the approaches tested, lessons in the Alexander Technique provided the most benefit. Following 24 Alexander Technique lessons, participants performed everyday activities with less difficulty than the control group, at both best (p=0.04) and at worst times of day (p=0.0004).
- At 6-months follow-up, the comparative improvement was maintained both at best times (p=0.03 and worst times of day (p=0.01).
- The improvement in the massage group was not statistically significant. This indicated that the benefits from the Alexander Technique lessons were due to learning and applying skills over and above any improvement due to touch and personal attention.
- Post-intervention, i.e., during the follow-up period, the Alexander Technique group was significantly less likely to have adjusted their Parkinson’s medication to cope with worsening symptoms during the trial than were the other two groups (p=0.001). This intriguing finding merits further research.
- At 6-months follow-up, of the participants who had not changed their medication for whatever reason, a smaller proportion of the Alexander Technique group than the other two groups, reported worsening symptoms, (p=0.045).
- The secondary measures showed the Alexander Technique group to be less depressed after 24 lessons compared with the control group (p=0.03) on the pre-determined questions in the Beck Depression Inventory.
- In an open-ended questionnaire, 41% of the Alexander Technique group said that they felt more positive/hopeful as a result of the Alexander Technique lessons; 35% said they felt less stress/panic, and 28% said they had improved self-confidence.
- When asked to list activities that had improved for them personally, 59% mentioned improved balance/posture, 48% mentioned improved walking, 38% improved speech and 28% reduced tremor. These answers were provided spontaneously rather than being elicited via specific questions.
For more information on this trial, please visit the STAT website.