Research on the Alexander Technique
The following is a selection of research projects involving the Alexander Technique. For links to the actual reports, abstracts, audio clips and video clips, visit AmSAT's research page.
Reductions in co-contraction following neuromuscular re-education in people with knee osteoarthritis. Stephen J. Preece, et al (2016) BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
In this study, 21 subjects with knee pain associated with an x-ray diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis were each given 20 Alexander Technique (AT) lessons. After their lessons, the participants reported a 56% reduction in knee pain. 15 of the study participants regularly took pain killers (analgesia) at the start of the study. 10 stopped taking medication after their Alexander lessons ended. 11 of the participants also reported experiencing less pain in other areas, including neck, shoulder and back.
The subjects also exhibited significantly less co-contraction during walking than at the start of the study, suggesting a possible physiological mechanism for the reduction pain. Interestingly enough, the patients did not show an increase in strength over the course of the study—the measurements of leg strength were the same before and after their Alexander lessons.
When the researchers followed up 15 months after the start of the study, the subjects had retained the reductions in pain, reporting 51% less pain than before their Alexander lessons.
Alexander Technique Lessons or Acupuncture Sessions for Persons With Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Trial. Hugh MacPherson, et al (2015). Annals of Internal Medicine.
517 patient with chronic neck pain were assigned to one of three groups. The control group received the usual care: physical therapy and prescription drugs. A second group was assigned 20 one-on-one, 30-minute Alexander Technique lessons (600 minutes total) with a certified teacher. The third group was assigned to 12 acupuncture sessions (also 600 minutes total).
Patients taking Alexander Technique lessons and those receiving acupuncture both experienced more than a 30% reduction in their chronic neck pain. A 25% reduction in pain is considered clinically significant. The most important result from the study is that the benefits of Alexander lessons persisted after lessons had ended. Patients completed their Alexander lessons in about 4 to 5 months after the start of the study. A year after the beginning of the study the patients were still experiencing a reduction in pain.
Lighten Up: Specific Postural Instructions Affect Axial Rigidity and Step Initiation in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease. Rajal G. Cohen, et al (2015), Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with stooped postural alignment, increased postural sway, and reduced mobility. The Alexander Technique (AT) is a mindfulness-based approach to improving posture and mobility by reducing muscular interference while maintaining upward intentions. This study investigated whether AT-based instructions reduce axial rigidity and increase upright postural alignment, and whether these instructions have different effects on postural alignment, axial rigidity, postural sway, and mobility than effort-based instructions regarding posture. Twenty subjects with PD practiced 2 sets of instructions and then attempted to implement both approaches (as well as a relaxed control condition) during quiet standing and step initiation. The “Lighten Up” instructions relied on AT principles of reducing excess tension while encouraging length. The “Pull Up” instructions relied on popular concepts of effortful posture correction. We measured kinematics, resistance to axial rotation, and ground reaction forces.
Both sets of experimental instructions led to increases in upright postural alignment relative to the control condition. Only the "Lighten Up" instructions led to reduced postural sway, reduced axial postural tone, greater modifiability of tone, and a smoother center of pressure trajectory during step initiation, possibly indicating greater movement efficiency.
Alexander Technique: Training for the self-management of workers to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Mora i Griso, Mireia. Foment del Treball Nacional de Catalunya (2011)
A descriptive and comparative study of precedents where the Alexander Technique has been applied as a tool to prevent occupational risks in different organisational settings throughout the world.
The impact of the Alexander Technique in Improving Posture During Minimally Invasive Surgery. Reddy P et al (2010). The American Urological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco.
This preliminary study found that surgeons who underwent Alexander Technique lessons improved their ability to perform laproscopic skills, including suturing and cutting.
Randomised Controlled Trial of Alexander Technique Lessons, Exercise, and Massage (ATEAM) for Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain. Little P et al (2008). British Medical Journal 337:a884.
In this study, 579 subjects with chronic and recurrent back pain were randomized to receive massage, six Alexander Technique lessons, 24 Alexander Technique lessons, or no intervention. In addition, half of the subjects were encouraged to walk regularly. A year later, the group with no intervention had 21 days of pain per month. The group with massage had 14 days of pain per month. The group with six Alexander Technique lessons reported 11 days of pain per month, and the group with 24 Alexander Technique lessons reported three days of pain per month. There were no adverse effects.
Patients’ views of receiving lessons in the Alexander Technique and an exercise prescription for managing back pain in the ATEAM trial. Yardley L et al (2010). Family Practice 27 (2):198-204.
Subjects from the ATEAM study (above) were interviewed about their experience with the Alexander Technique lessons and exercise. Whereas many obstacles to exercising were reported, few barriers to learning the Alexander Technique were described, since it ‘made sense’, could be practiced while carrying out everyday activities or relaxing, and the teachers provided personal advice and support.
Effects of Alexander Technique on Muscle Activation During a Computer-Mouse Task: Potential for Reduction in Repetitive Strain Injuries. Shafarman E, Geisler MW (2003). American Psychological Association Convention, Toronto, Canada.
In this preliminary study of computer mouse use, subjects without Alexander Technique training could reduce muscle activation only by slowing down, whereas subjects with Alexander Technique experience were able to reduce muscle activation while continuing to move rapidly. Implications for prevention of repetitive strain injury are discussed. The work was written up in Alexander Journal, 21. Available from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (an affiliated society in the United Kingdom) or from the lead author of the study: E. Shafarman.
Functional reach improvement in normal older women after Alexander Technique instruction. Dennis (1999). Journal of Gerontology - Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences, 54A(1): M8-M11.
Women aged 65-88 who received 8 Alexander Technique lessons showed a 36% improvement in forward-reaching distance (a common measure of balance control), while control subjects of the same age showed a 6% decrease over the same time-period.
Method for Changing Stereotyped Response Patterns by the Inhibition of Certain Postural Sets. Jones FP (1965). Psychological Review, 72, (3):196-214.
Postural habits can be profoundly affected by the Alexander Technique, specifically by learning and applying the concept of inhibition. Frank Pierce Jones was a pioneer in the study of human movement, and a teacher of the Alexander Technique. A collection of his publications can be found in the book Freedom to Change - The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique.