Thursday, 27 February 2014

Beating low back pain with Alexander Technique

The  Alexander Technique is best known as  a method of improving posture in daily activities.  Low back pain is common and can be highly disabling. It is one of the most common causes of sickness absence from work, and can reduce the quality of life of the sufferer.

A trial (Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage for chronic and recurrent back pain) was run by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Southampton, and funded by the General Medical Council. Six hundred patients were recruited from sixty-four GP’s practices in the south and south-west of England.  Each patient had seen a doctor because of recurrent or chronic back pain in the last five years.

The trial found significant improvements after a year among those having lessons in the Alexander Technique. They spent just three days in pain each month compared to twenty-one days in pain among those receiving standard NHS care. There were also important improvements in function and quality of life. One year after the trial started the average number of activities limited by low back pain had fallen by 42% in the group receiving AT lessons.

The study can be accessed on Paul Little et al., BMJ2008;337:a884