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Alexander Technique cuts medication use in pain sufferers

27 September, 2012

Natural Health News — Sufferers of chronic pain may benefit from having access to Alexander Technique courses via NHS outpatient pain clinics, according to a new study.

From June 2010 to May 2011, researchers carried an exploratory study of an Alexander Technique teaching service, offered as an additional pain management option. Forty-three patients with chronic or recurrent pain received six consecutive weekly one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons with a qualified and experienced Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) registered practitioner at St Michael’s Hospital’s Pain Clinic in Bristol. Around 75% of these patients were experiencing back pain.

The project aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique service, the experiences of service users and clinicians, and highlight the potential of the service to the NHS.

Dramatic reduction in medication use

Results showed that more than half of the service users in the study stopped or reduced their use of medications between the start of the lessons and three months.

Lead researcher Dr Stuart McClean from the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol 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.”

Key findings

The study’s key findings were:

• An Alexander Technique teaching service in a pain clinic can make a difference to how people manage their pain and reduce their pain related NHS costs including medication, tests and investigations and consultations with GPs and hospital doctors.

• Most patients liked the Alexander Technique lessons and benefited in terms of their day-to-day relationship with pain.

• Awareness and increased understanding of pain also led to some behaviour change and changes in self-knowledge from the patient.

The study recommends that Alexander Technique lessons should be considered by NHS commissioners who are interested in providing a useful, cost-saving addition to pain clinic service provision, particularly as a useful service for those who are seeking a long-term educational approach to chronic pain.

Dr McClean added, “The encouraging results of this pilot service evaluation provide a good basis for planning and obtaining funding for a multi-centre study in the UK with larger numbers of patients to extend these findings by including groups having more than six Alexander lessons and some having follow-up group classes in the Alexander Technique.”

About Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational approach taught by combined hands-on guidance and verbal explanation to help patients move with and achieve greater ease and poise by reducing unhelpful habits that get in the way of simple activities such as sitting, standing and walking. It requires attention and application on the part of the patient, or ‘student’.

Once the technique is learned the ‘students’ incorporate it into their everyday life, emphasising self-management so that the benefits last after lessons end.