In a study published in Family Practice (2010; 27 , 198–204), patients with lower-back pain reported that the Alexander Technique was more effective than exercise for managing their condition, because the technique seemed a better fit for their lifestyles and symptoms. The patients had participated in the earlier ATEAM clinical trial, which found that a series of lessons in the Alexander Technique led to substantial reductions in back pain, with benefits persisting for a full year. The ATEAM trial was published in the British Medical Journal (2008; 337, a884).
In this smaller study, nested within the larger clinical trial, researchers from the University of Southampton, England, working with a team at the University of Bristol, gave questionnaires at baseline and after 3 months to ATEAM subjects assigned to either the Alexander Technique or the exercise prescription interventions (n = 183 and 176, respectively). The questionnaires assessed the patients’ beliefs concerning the Alexander Technique and the exercise prescription. In addition, investigators interviewed a number of people from each group at baseline and after 3 months.
Review of the questionnaires and interviews showed that few patients reported any barriers to learning the Alexander Technique, and most felt that it could be practiced during everyday activities or while relaxing. In contrast, more patients expressed obstacles to participating in an exercise program.
Study limitations included the fact that positive views might have been overrepresented, since those who did not complete the study did not participate in follow-up interviews and questionnaires. The authors concluded that efforts to help patients effectively manage lower-back pain over time should include personal support; adaptation of the intervention into the patient’s lifestyle; and efforts to avoid provoking unacceptable levels of pain, in order to ensure that the intervention experience was pleasant.
Lucy Yardley, PhD, professor of health psychology at the University of Southampton, said, “There are many aspects of learning the Alexander Technique that seem to help. It is pleasant and relaxing and gives people confidence that they understand and will be able to prevent and cope with back problems in the future.”
To learn more about the Alexander Technique, go to www.alexandertechnique.com.