What is the Alexander Technique and what are its benefits?
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Medical and Scientific Research
and Endorsements of the Alexander Technique
"Neck problems are virtually an occupational hazard for Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons. I had serious problems during my working years, but hoped for relief on early retirement. This was not the case and limitation of cervical (and thoracic) movement became quite an intrusion on my life. Physiotherapy and medication gave only short-term improvement. On being introduced to the Alexander Technique I was somewhat sceptical that anything was going to work, but can only describe the relief gained, and maintained, as quite incredible. General posture has improved and neck mobility has returned to that last experienced more than twenty years ago. What more could one ask for?"
- Kieran Tobin, M.B, B. Ch, BAO, FRCS(Eng), FRCS(Irl), D.L.O., Senior Surgeon, University College Hospital Galway Ireland. Past President of the Irish Otolaryngological, Head and Neck Society and Past-President of the E.N.T. Section of the Royal Society of Medicine of Ireland.
Information on ordering this and the other books cited on this page can be found at The Alexander Technique Bookstore (USA and Canada) in Association with AMAZON.COM and AMAZON.CA or The Alexander Technique Bookshop (UK) in association with AMAZON.CO.UK.
Much of the early medical research on the Alexander Technique was conducted during the 1940s by Dr. Wilfred Barlow MD, a consultant rheumatologist at Guy's Hospital in London, England. A good summary of that research can be found in his book, The Alexander Principle.
During the 1960s and 70s, Frank Pierce Jones conducted a series of studies at Tufts University using electromyography and EMG equipment. These studies showed that the Alexander Technique could produce a marked reduction in stress levels. His results are included in his book Freedom to Change- The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique.
Nikolaas Tinbergen, winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine devoted a major portion of his acceptance speech to the benefits of the Alexander Technique. Watch a video of the Alexander Technique portion of his acceptance speech. A complete transcript of his address can be found in Science, 185:20-27, l974.
In recent years, the number of medical and scientific studies has grown rapidly. A comprehensive series of studies of the underlying physiological mechanisms of the Technique have been conducted by Dr. David Garlick of the University of New South Wales. These may be found in The Lost Sixth Sense - A Medical Scientist looks at the Alexander Technique.
Information about some recent studies can be found at:
- Randomised controlled trial of Alexander Technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain - This is a recent (Summer, 2008) large scale study that shows the effectiveness of Alexander lessons in treating back pain. Includes an excellent video about the study and about the Alexander Technique. View just the video here. A follow-up study published in the UK medical journal Family Practice showed that the participants in the study who had taken Alexander Technique lessons became more satified over time, unlike other participants.
Listen to an interview with Dr. Paul Little, MD, Lead Investigator for the study
- Watch a video describing a systematic summary of research into the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice Read the study here.
- Enhanced respiratory muscular function without exercises - Listen to an interview with Dr. John Austin, MD who conducted the study
- Listen to the endorsements of other doctors
- The Impact of the Alexander Technique in Improving (the surgeon's) Posture during Minimally Invasive Surgery - A 2010 study conducted at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio Press Release about the Study
- Benefits of Alexander Technique lessons for sufferers of chronic pain - positive results found in this University of Bristol study
- Studies by Dr. Tim Caccitore at the Oregon Health and Science University and University College London Institute of Neurology:
- Physical Therapy and the Alexander Technique Homepage
- Randomized Controlled Trial of the Alexander Technique for Idiopathic Parkinson's Disease
- The Alexander Technique and Parkinson’s Disease: A Case Study in Generating Hope for a Degenerative Condition - Podcast Interview with the author of the study|
- Functional Reach Improvement in Normal Older Women After Alexander Technique Instruction
- Article from the Detroit Medical News about the Alexander Technique experience of a retired pediatric surgeon (PDF)
- Alexander Technique: Training for the self-management of workers to prevent musculoskeletal disorders - research at Foment del Treball Nacional de Catalunya (PDF of full study in Spanish, PDF of the abstract in English)
- The Alexander Technique and Neuroscience: Three Areas of Interest (PDF)
- F. M. Alexander Technique in the treatment of stuttering - A randomized single-cast intervention study
- The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique in London has a page on its Website: Scientific Research in the Alexander Technique
- Effects of Alexander Technique on Muscle Activation During a Computer-Mouse Task: Potential for Reduction in Repetitive Strain Injuries - Summary of a study performed at San Francisco State University
- Improvement in Automatic Postural Coordination Following Alexander Technique Lessons in a Person With Low Back Pain - an article in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association
- Exploring the Psychological Processes Underlying Touch: Lessons from the Alexander Technique - article in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
- Francisco Varela and The Gesture of Awareness: A new Direction in Cognitive Science and its Relevance to the Alexander Technique by Rachel Zahn relates cutting-edge developments in the field of cognitive science to the Alexander Technique in a thoughtful and interactive way
- The Role of Postural Reflexes in Health and Well-Being by Gerald Foley (PDF)
- Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, has recommended the Alexander Technique on several occasions. Click here to read his what he has to say about the Technique.
- This excellent French site has links to several medical and scientific studies involving the Alexander Technique
As the Alexander Technique has become better known, a growing number of doctors are referring some of their patients to Alexander teachers. In Great Britain, lessons in the Technique may be covered by the National Health Service.
Listen to an interview with Dr. Theodore Steinman of the Harvard Medical School, and internationally recognized pain management specialist, about the Alexander Technique and pain management.
This is what other American doctors have said about the Alexander Technique:
"The Alexander Technique remains the best of the self-care strategies to prevent the sequel of poor posture and poor breathing."
- Harold Wise, MD, PC, New York, NY
"The Alexander Technique stresses unification in an era of greater and greater medical specialization. Its educational system teaches people how to best use their bodies in ordinary action to avoid or reduce unnecessary stress and pain. In enables clients to get better faster and stay better longer. This is undoubtedly the best way to take care of the back and alleviate back pain."
- Jack Stern, MD, PhD, Neurosugical Group of Westchester, White Plains, NY
"Lessons in the Alexander Technique taught me how to sit in a state of lumbrosacral poise, and my chronic low back pain gradually became cured. The Technique is true education. Compared to surgery (e.g. for low back pain or for chronic obstructive lung disease) a course of instruction is inexpensive."
- John H. M. Austin, MD, Professor of Radiology; Chief, Division of Radiology, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY
"The Alexander Technique makes sense in that appropriate use of the body will lead to reduction of various musculoskeletal disorders and remediate others which are established. No equipment is needed, just he skill and training of the teacher. This technique is very worthwhile as a primary preventative therapy. It is especially useful when posture is a key factor in back injuries while lifting and for workers who perform repetitive tasks while sitting."
- Robert D. Greene, MD, Emergency Department, Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, CT
"I recommend people to the Alexander Technique who have not improved with traditional rehabilitative therapies. Part of their pain may be due to posture and the improper use of their bodies. Many people who have neck or back pain and have gone through heat, ultrasound and massage with no relief can be helped by learning the Alexander Technique. It definitely works. Nothing works for everyone, as one well-versed in using physical therapy and biofeedback, I know how valuable this technique is. I highly recommend it."
- Barry M. Schienfeld, MD, Specialist in Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management, Community General Hospital, Harris, NY
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