Medical trials on back pain and chronic neck pain

In 2008, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) validated the use of the Alexander technique in back pain when it reported on the ATEAM (Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage) trial, a large trial showing long-term benefits at 1 year from 24 Alexander lessons for people with chronic and recurrent back pain. These long-term benefits were measured as a 3.4 point reduction in Roland Morris disability score (a measurement of the number of activities impaired by pain) from 8.1 to 4.7 and a median reduction in days in pain from 21 days per 4 weeks to 3 days per 4 weeks. Read the full BMJ article about the trial. Due to the extensive interest in the ATEAM trial, the BMJ also produced a number of videos interviewing some of the patients, Alexander teachers and medical researchers involved (see the BMJ videos about ATEAM trial).

The positive results of the ATEAM trial on back pain have led to further scientific and medical interest in the Alexander technique. The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Board of the UK Medical Research Council has funded a feasibility study, in advance of a full trial, comparing outcomes from Alexander technique and physiotherapy in back pain. Read more about ASPEN (Alexander technique and Supervised Physiotherapy Exercises in back paiN): a four-group randomised feasibility trial. (Download the full October 2014 ASPEN trial report as a pdf.)

In November 2015, the Annals of Internal Medicine published results from the ATLAS (Alexander Technique Lessons, Acupuncture Sessions or usual care for patients with chronic neck pain) trial, which validated the use of both acupuncture and Alexander technique for chronic neck pain. The ATLAS trial, funded by Arthritis Research UK, found that both acupuncture and Alexander technique were associated with statistically significant and clinically relevant long-term reductions in neck pain and associated disability at 12 months compared with ‘usual care’ (medications and physical therapy). In this trial, the researchers found 12-month Northwick Park Questionnaire (or NPQ – a self-report questionnaire measuring the degree of neck pain and associated disability) score reductions of 12.88% for acupuncture and 12.24% for Alexander lessons; these NPQ score reductions compare favourably with the 8% or 9% reductions seen with usual care (including physical therapy and exercise) in this and other studies. Both Alexander technique and acupuncture resulted in a greater increase in self-efficacy for participants compared to those receiving usual care, and these improvements were associated with better NPQ outcomes. Read the study abstract and access the Annals of Internal Medicine article about the ATLAS trial.

Other research on the Alexander technique

In addition to the trials mentioned above, there has been further medical and scientific research into the effects of taking Alexander lessons in the following areas:

  • health and wellbeing, including:

    • back problems, neck pain, osteoarthritis, other pain, repetitive strain injury, Parkinson's disease, other medical conditions, pregnancy, stress, growing old, breathing, hypermobility, postural tone, postural and ergonomic skills, balance and mobility, and movement coordination

  • performance, including:

    • acting, dancing, playing an instrument, singing, voice work, and public speaking

  • sports and fitness, including:

    • running, swimming, golf, cycling, and horse riding

  • everyday life and work, including:

    • workplace performance

  • education and children.

The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) in the UK, the original founding organisation for the Alexander technique worldwide, publishes a full listing of all published research about the Alexander technique that can be filtered according to topic or searched via keyword. The American Society for the Alexander Technique also provides an annotated bibliography of research studies involving the Alexander technique.

The STAT Research Group

STAT has an active Research Group that monitors and supports current and up-and-coming medical and scientific research about the Alexander technique. Learn more about the STAT Research Group.

The website Alexander Studies Online is an initiative of the STAT Research Group and is being developed in collaboration with the international community of supporters and teachers of the Alexander technique.

The BMJ ATEAM trial videos

The benefits of Alexander technique lessons for pupils with back pain. A summary of the ATEAM research study done in the UK to evaluate the effectiveness of training in the Alexander Technique for relief of back pain.

How does the Alexander technique work? What were the ATEAM authors' findings about the clinical and cost effectiveness of the treatment? Watch this video to find out. Part 1 of 2

How does the Alexander technique work? What are the ATEAM authors' findings about the clinical and cost effectiveness of the treatment? Watch this video to find out. Part 2 of 2.