Back pain is the most common reason people turn to the Alexander Technique. This is perhaps because students of the technique all appear to know how to stand well, and amongst the many other problems that the technique has been known to help, back pain is a big one. It is not surprising that the first fully controlled trial on the Alexander Technique involved its effectiveness in helping chronic back pain and it is now becoming increasingly available on the NHS as a result.
The Alexander Technique Back Pain trial was finally published in August 2008 in the British Medical Journal after several years of planning and testing. All subjects in the trial had suffered from long term chronic back pain.
The trial grouped the 579 subjects into one of the following groups:
- Six lessons in the Alexander Technique
- 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique
- Six sessions of classical massage
- GP-prescribed aerobic exercise
- A control group which received normal GP care for NHS patients with significant chronic or recurrent non-specific low back pain.
- The control group had on average 21 days of back pain per month
- At three months after the trial started all the intervention groups – six and 24 AT lessons, exercise and massage – showed some significant benefit compared with the normal GP care control group.
- The exercise groups had improved function, with the disability score better at one year than at three months; days in pain were not significantly different from the control group (21 days).
- The massage group’s three month improvement in the disability score was not maintained; days in pain (14) were still less than the control group (21 days).
- The best results were seen in the 24 Alexander Technique lesson group with an average of just 3 days of back pain per month.
- Additional benefits from the Alexander Technique sessions were seen with important improvements in function, quality of life and reduction in days in pain. One year after the trial started, the average number of activities limited by low back pain (the RM disability score) had fallen by 42%.
For more in depth coverage of this important study, the following links provide further information:
These two videos are especially useful for grasping an insight into the study, and the process of learning the technique.
The Alexander Technique helped a long-standing back problem and to get a good night’s sleep after many years of tossing and turning. - Paul Newman, actor