“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.
How does the Alexander Technique work? Towards a scientific model:
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.
(These and many other Alexander Technique books and videos can be found at The Alexander Technique Bookstore)
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 large scale study sponsored by the British National Health Service 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 satisfied over time, unlike other participants. Listen to an interview with Dr. Paul Little, MD, Lead Investigator for the study
- Alexander Technique Science proves a wealth of information about the scientific basis of the Alexander Technique
- Alexander technique and Supervised Physiotherapy Exercises in back pain
(ASPEN): a four-group randomised feasibility trial
- The effect of the Alexander Technique on pain intensity in patients with chronic low back pain: A randomized controlled trial
- New study reveals the benefits of Alexander Technique lessons for back pain
- 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.
- Study Summary: Lighten Up! Trying Hard to “Stand Up Straight” May Interfere with Balance – Study showing Alexander Technique derived instructions were more effective for balance and coordination than trying to “stand up straight”. The summary includes links to the full study, and to several related studies.
- Enhanced respiratory muscular function without exercises – Listen to an interview with Dr. John Austin, MD who conducted the study (poor audio quality)
- Reductions in co-contraction following neuromuscular re-education in people with knee osteoarthritis
- Self-efficacy and self-care-related outcomes following Alexander Technique lessons for people with chronic neck pain
- Preliminary evidence for feasibility, efficacy, and mechanisms of Alexander technique group classes for chronic neck pain
- Alexander Technique vs. Targeted Exercise for Neck Pain—A Preliminary Comparison
- Effects of Alexander Technique training experience on gait behavior in older adults
- Altered coordination strategies during upright stance and gait in teachers of the Alexander Technique
- Neck posture is influenced by anticipation of stepping
- Listen to the endorsements of sevaral 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:
- Increased dynamic regulaton of postural tone through Alexander Technique training – 2010 Study published in Human Movement Science (PDF)
- Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during the sit-to-stand in practitioners of the Alexander Technique – 2011 Study published in Gait and Posture (PDF)
- Alexander Technique and Postural Tone (PDF) – an overview of the first study cited above published in the STAT News
- Neuromechanical interference of posture on movement: evidence from Alexander technique teachers rising from a chair – Published in Journal of Neurophysiology, 2014
- Listen to an interview with Dr. Caccitore about these studies Learn more about the equipment used by Dr. Caccitore in his research here
- How does the Alexander Technique work? Towards a scientific model
- The Beginning of Understanding: A New Scientific Model of the Alexander Technique
- Women’s experiences of using the Alexander Technique in the postpartum
- Postural instructions affect postural sway in young adults
- Impact of the Alexander technique on well‐being: a randomised controlled trial involving older adults with visual impairment
- Physical Therapy and the Alexander Technique Homepage
- Potential Mechanisms of the Alexander Technique:Toward a Comprehensive Neurophysiological Model
- Hypermobility and the Alexander Technique – Dr Philip Bull, Hypermobility Sociecty Association Journal
- Randomized Controlled Trial of the Alexander Technique for Idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease
- Alexander Technique Lessons or Acupuncture Sessions for Persons With Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Trial
- 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
- How does the Alexander Technique lead to psychological and non-physical outcomes? A realist review.
- Alexander Technique Pilot Study for Older People with a Fear of Falling
- Altered coordination strategies during upright stance and gait in teachers of the Alexander Technique
- Improvement in Automatic Postural Coordination Following Alexander Technique Lessons in a Person With Low Back Pain
- Evaluating the Role of the Alexander Technique in Exercise Participation for Cancer Survivors
- Exploring how women use the Alexander Technique: psycho-physical re-education in the postpartum
- Alexander Technique classes improve pain and performance factors in tertiary music students
- Older adult Alexander technique practitioners walk differently than healthy age-matched controls
- Article from the Detroit Medical News about the Alexander Technique experience of a retired pediatric surgeon (PDF)
- 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
- 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
- The effects of participation in the Alexander Technique on female violinists and violists: A mixed-methods study
- Coordination improvement in Automat 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
- The Alexander Technique for Back Pain
- How does the Alexander Technique lead to psychological and non-physical outcomes? A realist review
- iPosture: A Closer Look at the Lifestyle Practices of Jewish Israeli School Children
- 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)
- Education of Teachers with Chronic Low Back Pain Based on Integrative Model of Behavioral Prediction
- Effects of Implementing the Alexander Technique on Enjoying the Sense of Motherhood in the Postpartum Period
- Overview of scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of 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 several doctors who have endorsed the Alexander Technique.
This is what other American doctors have said about the Alexander Technique:
“Habitual patterns of scrunched and tense use of the body are so engrained in our lives that the concept may seem extraordinary that unlearning these patterns can actually relieve pain and discomfort–but lessons in the Alexander Technique not only succeed for many people, they also allow a welcome sense of new ease in performance of all physical activities, e.g., playing a sport, using a computer keyboard, or playing a musical instrument. Research in which I have been involved has also shown enhanced strength of the muscles of breathing after a course of lessons.” -John H.M. Austin, MD, Professor Emeritus of Radiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY
“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 Listen to an interview with Dr. Stern.
“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