Alexander Technique Scientific Research and Medical Endorsements
The earliest scientific research on the Alexander Technique was conducted by Dr. Wilfred Barlow, a rheumatoglist at Guy’s Hospital in London in the 1940s. His studies showed that lessons in the Technique could help with a wide variety of physical ailments, including back pain, arthritis, cervical spondylosis, breathing disorders and stress conditions such as migraine headaches.
Frank Pierce Jones conducted a series of studies at Tufts University during the 1960s and 70s using electromyography and EMG equipment. His studies demonstrated that the Technique could produce a marked reduction in stress levels.
The pace of scientific and medical research on the Alexander Technique has picked up considerably in recent years. Many of these studies are currently underway, but here are several examples of completed studies:
- A major medical study in England, published by the British Medical Journal in 2008, found that lessons in the Alexander technique have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain, and are the most cost-effective way to treat back pain. The full study can be read at http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/aug19_2/a884 A video produced by the British Medical Journal summarizing the study can be viewed at http://www.viddler.com/explore/atbmj/videos/1/.
- A 1992 study at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University demonstrated that the Technique enhances respiratory functioning in normal older adults.
- Alexander Technique lessons are “…likely to lead to substantial benefit for people with Parkinson’s disease.” According to a 2002 study at the School of Integrative Medicine, University of Westminster. Several other studies relating to Parkinson’s disease are currently underway.
- A 1999 article in the Journal of Gerontology reported that a study had found that the Alexander Technique is effective in improving the balance and thereby reducing the incidence of falls in normal older women.
- The Alexander Technique leads to “…improved postural conditions in people with low back pain” according to a 2004 study at the Neurological Sciences Institute, Oregon health and Sciences University. Other studies relating to back pain are currently underway.
- A 2006 study performed at the Psychophysiology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, San Francisco State University showed that the Technique is effective in reducing the incidence of Repetitive Strain Injuries in computer users.
A number of medical doctors have endorsed the Alexander Technique, based on the experience of their patients and, sometimes, themselves. For example, Dr Harold Wise, MD of New York writes: “The Alexander Technique remains the best of the self-care strategies to prevent the sequel of poor posture and poor breathing."
John H. M. Austin, MD, Chief, Division of Radiology, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York has said: "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."
In Great Britain, Alexander Technique lessons are available through the National Health Service and in Israel, the Technique has been used in hospital rehabilitation clinics.