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Alexander technique could relieve chronic pain

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A study was carried out for 11 months, exploring an Alexander Technique teaching service that was time-limited.

Those who suffer with chronic pain may find some relief through learning the Alexander Technique in NHS outpatient clinics, research found.

More than 50% of the service users who took part in a service evaluation project halted or reduced the medication they were taking between the day lessons began and for the following three months. This meant that the NHS saved on medication costs.

This was in addition to pain management options and took place in the Pain Clinic at Bristol’s St Michael’s Hospital.

The study was carried out by UWE Bristol researcher Dr Stuart McClean, who worked with Dr Lesley Wye from the University of Bristol, along with health practitioners and The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT).

Funded by the Avon Primary Care Research Collaborative (APCRC), the service evaluation project aimed to consider how effective the Alexander Technique service was.

It also hoped to consider service users’ and clinicians’ experiences and highlight the potential of the service within the NHS.

Beginning in June 2010, and running until May 2011, a total of 43 chronic or recurrent pain patients were given six one-to-one Alexander Technique sessions, running for six consecutive weeks.

The sessions were with an experienced and qualified STAT registered Alexander Technique teacher and took place at St Michael’s Hospital’s Pain Clinic.

The Alexander Technique is an educational approach that is taught through a combination of hands-on guidance and verbal explanation.

It helps patients to move more easily, and to achieve a better poise by cutting down on unhelpful habits that intrude on day-to-say activities such as standing, sitting and walking.

The patient - or ‘student’ - is required to pay attention to using the technique and apply it.

Once learned, patients can bring the technique into everyday life. Self-management is emphasised so that patients can still benefit from the technique following the end of lessons.

Dr Stuart McClean who led the evaluation explains, “We have seen from a previous randomised controlled trial that Alexander Technique lessons were found to be both clinically and cost effective for the management of low back pain in primary care. This study builds on those findings to evaluate the provision of Alexander Technique lessons within a hospital out-patient Pain Management Clinic. It focused on a group of 43 patients with chronic or recurrent pain, 75% of which had back pain.

“All 43 were not getting better or responding to conventional treatment and all expressing an interest in Alexander Technique lessons as a pain management approach.”


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Great to see this so well covered, thank you. There was a large and successful MRC controlled trial which produced similar results through GP practices. Let's hope that the new NICE guidelines recognise that there is nothing alternative about Alexander. Before WWII a number of leading doctors wrote to the BMJ urging that it be included in basic medical school training. Thank you for giving our SEAT study such a good space. Anita Bennett. Bristol MSTAT.

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