The Alexander Technique appears to have a new devotee in the person of Victoria Beckham, the erstwhile Posh Spice. Marie Claire reports that the fashion maven took up Alexander lessons after seeing photos of herself looking round shouldered. All the press reports discuss how Ms Beckham is following the technique to correct bad posture (phrasing that AT teachers avoid) . Her teacher must have had an interesting time of it- we wonder how long the 5 inch heels lasted into the first lesson?
Roger Lloyd Pack, is one of those actors you know without knowing. He incarnated the two great characters of Trigger in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and Owen in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’. Recently he played Barty Crouch in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. In the Independent he explains how he came to have lessons with Marge Barlow, when he was studying at RADA:
If you have seen Lenny Henry performing, you may have noticed that he’s tall, and he has a tendency to stoop. On taking on the new challenge of playing Othello on stage, the Guardian reports that Henry has been using the Alexander Technique to help him project physical presence, and to towers over his Desdemona:
Alexander Technique the most effective and cost effective option for the treatment of back pain in primary care - study
Alongside the ATEAM study of Alexander Technique for chronic and recurrent back pain, the researchers from Bristol and Southampton universities also studied the economic implications of using AT to address back pain. The research is now available at the British Medical Journal:
The report concludes that “a series of six lessons in Alexander technique combined with an exercise prescription seems the most effective and cost effective option for the treatment of back pain in primary care”. This is potentially big news, given that “in 2005 Americans spent $85.9 billion looking for relief from back and neck pain through surgery, doctor’s visits, X-rays, MRI scans and medications, up from $52.1 billion in 1997, according to a study in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)” (Newsweek). Back pain has been notoriously intractable, and if the ATEAM results are reproduced, a major shift in its treatment could be on the cards.
As we reported in October, the UK’s health policy body, NICE, has already published its draft guidelines - lower back pain, which made a late inclusion of the result. We understand STAT, the UK teaching body, is working with NICE now, in which case it will be fascinating to see the final guidelines.
The BMJ report also contains a well produced video explaining the Alexander Technique and the study.
BackCare, the UK back pain charity, offers information sheets on the various approaches to treating back pain. The information on the Alexander Technique is striking in its forthright discussion of its members’ experiences:
“What is the evidence?
Not much research has been carried out on the Alexander technique in relation to back pain, but one trial of a multidisciplinary programme for back pain sufferers, including the Alexander Technique, found improvements in pain that lasted up to six months. In a survey of BackCare members, almost four out of ten users felt that it had brought about a long-term improvement in their back condition, making it the most effective of all the treatments reviewed”. (emphasis added).
You can download the information sheet here
Harry Eyres recently started The Alexander Technique. He writes about it in The Financial Times, drawing heavily on John Dewey’s writings on the technique. For example:
‘Dewey was learning the first lesson of the Alexander Technique, which is that body and mind are indissolubly linked. Alexander states that “No human activity can be said to be wholly ‘physical’ or wholly ‘mental’, but all human activity, in whatever sphere, is psycho-physical activity.”
This discovery hit Dewey with the force of a revelation. “The question of integration of mind-body in action is the most practical of all questions we can ask of our civilisation … Until this integration is effected … we shall continue to live in a society in which a soulless materialism is compensated for by soulful, but futile, idealism and spiritualism.”’
Marilyn Arsenault is both a top runner and a top opera singer in Victoria, Canada. She took her experience with Alexander Technique from her singing with her when she took up running:
The Multiple Sclerosis Support Centre in Saltney, Wales, has instituted a program of Alexander Technique lessons for its members. The funding will be provided from lottery money.
The centre’s manager said that the program was an initiative of the members: “Our membership is very proactive and believes strongly in self-help. They have researched therapies and have identified the Alexander Technique as one, which would provide significant benefits. This award is the direct result of requests from our members.”
Behind the headlines seeks to be ” a service that provides an unbiased and evidence-based analysis of health stories that make the news”. Its analysis of the Little et al paper on Alexander Technique and exercise for chronic lower back pain concludes:
“This well conducted randomised trial has strengths in that it involved a large number of participants with a sample size large enough to assess meaningful differences in the measured outcomes for each of the different treatments. It also followed the majority of these participants across the one year period. The study demonstrates the effectiveness of the Alexander technique, with and without exercise, in reducing disability score on a recognised scale.
A few points to consider:
Instruction and education in the techniques involved a large number of trained professionals (152) and there may have been minor differences in the treatments given across the sample.
The fact that the Alexander technique requires education by a registered professional does mean that referral is going to be affected by local care arrangements and resources across the country.
Although the effectiveness was measured up to one year, longer follow-up would be valuable to assess longer-term outcomes and possible adverse effects.
Assessments were by postal questionnaire and disability, quality of life and pain are highly subjective measures. How one person views their level of pain and disability is going to be different from another.
All people in the groups had chronic back pain and fulfilled certain criteria. Many that the researchers contacted initially were not eligible for the study. Importantly, this study has no implications for care of acute low back pain”.