Research studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique for various problems. There is research into its value for individuals who suffer chronic back, neck, or general pain. Other studies have been undertaken to evaluate the application of the Alexander Technique in musicians, people in the workplace, and the elderly. And further studies have looked at the value of the Alexander Technique for arthritis, Parkinsons, respiratory functioning, and posture.
Alexander Technique lessons can result in long-term benefits for people with chronic back pain.
This was the finding of a clinical trial funded by England’s Medical Research Council and National Health Service. The clinical trial known as the “ATEAM trial” conformed to the protocol of a randomised controlled trial. Findings were published in the esteemed British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2008.
The findings of the high-quality trial were that 24 one-on-one Alexander Technique lessons lead to long-term benefits, namely:
Participants who received 24 individual Alexander Technique lessons enjoyed an 86% reduction in days of pain one year after lessons began (compared to those in the control group who received standard GP care).
Compared to the control group, participants experienced only 3 days of pain per month (as against 21 days per month by those receiving usual GP care).
Participants who received 24 individual Alexander Technique lessons enjoyed significant improvements in functioning and quality of life, with a 42% increase in the number of everyday activities that could be carried out without being limited by back pain (as against those in the control group)
Alexander Technique provided greater benefit to sufferers than those who received either standard GP care or massage
No adverse effects were reported by any person in the Alexander Technique group of the trial (288 participants who together received over 2,400 lessons).
A randomised, controlled clinical trial (the ATLAS trial), funded by Arthritis Research UK, has shown that Alexander Technique lessons can result in long-term benefit for people with chronic neck pain.
The trial showed the following long-term benefits for people who attended Alexander lessons:
They experienced nearly a third less pain and associated disability (a 31% reduction) at the end of the trial, 1 year later.
This reduction was significantly greater than that experienced by the group who received usual GP-led care alone, and was large enough to be considered clinically relevant.
The extent to which people were able to manage their pain (‘self-efficacy’) increased more in the Alexander group than in the usual care alone group, and this increase in self-efficacy was associated with a greater reduction in pain and associated disability at 1 year.
Following Alexander lessons, improvement was also seen in people’s mental health at 1 year, as revealed by a self-report quality-of-life questionnaire.
No safety issues related to Alexander lessons were identified.
Note that similar benefits were experienced in a group who were given acupuncture. For more information on this trial, please visit STAT’s website.
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.