The UK Back Pain Study and Alexander Technique Internet Traffic

Robert Rickover

(Originally published in the Spring, 2009 AmSAT News)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you are aware of the major UK study showing that lessons in the Alexander technique have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain. The study,(1) published in the British Medical Journal, received a tremendous amount of publicity and resulted in an unpresidented surge of interest in the Technique. You've likely received inquiries as a result.

I would like to provide a little detail of how that surge of interest played out on the web, and its implications for Alexander Technique teachers.

First, there was a very large spike in overall Alexander Technique related internet traffic as a direct result of the study. You can see this very clearly by examining the Google Trends graph at google.com/trends?q=alexander+technique.(2) For a couple of days, starting on August 20, there was about a fifteen-fold increase. That increase subsided fairly quickly, but the number of visits to Alexander Technique sites continued to be well above average for about another two weeks. By mid-September, overall traffic was only slightly above normal.

Second, there was an even bigger, and much longer lasting, increase in visits to AT video and audio sites such as alexandervideo.net and alexanderaudio.com, and on YouTube.com (where an Alexander Technique search yields hundreds of results). The initial surge was about twice as big as that for print-dominated sites and although it too has subsided considerably, visits to those sites remains significantly higher than pre-surge levels.

Audio interviews and descriptions have the appeal of being easily downloaded onto an iPod or other MP3 player which can then be listed to whenever it's convenient. Video descriptions of the Technique are very helpful for people for whom written descriptions of the Technique make little or no sense. (It no coincidence that the sales of Alexander tapes and DVD's has increased dramatically compared to books in recent years.)

To sumerise, the study produced an increase in internet interest in the Technique that was huge, short lived, and tended to favor audio and video over text resources. I have no doubt that the study will have significant long-term effects on our profession, but I suspect that on the web, that effect will become increasingly hard to measure.

What are the implications of this for Alexander teachers wishing to expand their practice?

Most teachers with websites already know from personal experience that the web is a prime source of new students. Many teachers with websites get most of their new students from the web.(3) Even in normal times, having a website - which need cost only a few dollars a month - is by far the most effective means of promoting one's practice. Over time, teachers with well-produced audio or video material will benefit the most. During the past few months, students without a website clearly missed out on significant new teaching opportunities.

Without a website, it's a lot harder for people to find you, and your professional credibility is greatly reduced. We are rapidly approaching the point where not having a website will be like not having a phone number. If you've been hesitant about jumping in the "internet sea", now is the time to take the plunge!

1. You can read the full study here

2. Or, you can go to google.com/trends and type "Alexander Technique" as a search term. You can also compare Alexander Technique statistics with other methods such as Feldenkrais, Pilates etc.

3. Two caveats: To be effective, a site must have some basic information clearly displayed on the first page, and must be listed on a few key websites. See alexandertechnique.com/ats/internet for more on this, and for more information about creating a website. Also, your email and phone contact information must be accurate - a surprising number of Alexander Websites contain out-of-date contact information.

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Robert Rickover teaches the Alexander Technique in Lincoln, Nebraska and Toronto, Canada. He is the creator of The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique at http://alexandertechnique.com

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