Background and objectives
The Alexander Technique (AT) is a self-care method usually taught in one-to-one lessons. AT lessons have been shown to be helpful in managing long-term health-related conditions (Int J Clin Pract 2012;66:98−112). This systematic review aims to draw together evidence of the effectiveness of AT lessons in managing musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, with empirically based evidence of physiological changes following AT training, to provide a putative theoretical explanation for the observed benefits of Alexander lessons.
Methods and results
Systematic searches of a range of databases were undertaken to identify prospective studies evaluating AT instruction for any musculoskeletal condition, using PICO criteria, and for studies assessing the physiological effects of AT training. Citations (N=332) were assessed and seven MSK intervention studies were included for further analysis. In two large well-designed randomised controlled trials, AT lessons led to significant long-term (1 year) reductions in pain and incapacity caused by chronic back or neck pain (usual GP-led care comparator). Three smaller RCTs in chronic back and neck pain, respectively, and a pain clinic service evaluation broadly supported these findings. A pilot study reported preliminary evidence for pain reduction in knee osteoarthritis patients. Further studies showed significant improvements in general coordination, walking gait, motor control and balance, possibly resulting from improved postural muscle tone regulation and adaptability, in people with extensive AT training.
Available evidence supports the effectiveness of AT lessons for people with chronic back or neck pain. Studies suggest some of the observed benefit may be due to improvements in movement coordination, balance and postural tone.
Conflicts of interest: None. Authors are practising Alexander Technique teachers.