Alexander Technique and Acupuncture may help neck pain

Have you considered acupuncture or Alexander technique for neck pain?

If you are not getting a benefit from your traditional therapy, if you do not want to keep taking medication or if you want a more self-help physical therapy that will involve long-term changes, then acupuncture and Alexander technique would be good options.

A recent trial of 517 patients showed that these two alternative therapies, acupuncture and the Alexander technique, appear better for the long-term relief of chronic neck pain.computer-neck-3-copy

For the study, the researchers (including Hugh MacPherson, Clinic Director of the York Clinic) randomly assigned more 517 patients from the United Kingdom who had chronic neck pain to one of three treatment groups. One group received usual care for neck pain that may have included medication or traditional physical therapy. The other two groups received either 12 acupuncture sessions or 20 Alexander lessons. Each treatment group received 600 minutes of the intervention.

The report, which was published on the 3rd November 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that acupuncture sessions and Alexander technique lessons both led to significant reductions in neck pain and associated disability compared with usual care at 12 months, and both were linked to better pain relief than either painkillers or physical therapy as scored on a pain questionnaire. Neither of the alternative treatments appeared to offer a significant benefit over the other, and neither alternative treatment was linked to any serious adverse side effects.

Professor Hugh MacPherson, of the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York said:

“In general, it is difficult to find long-term treatments that have a positive effect on chronic neck pain. But, both acupuncture and the Alexander technique lessons did.  The patient could make changes in coping that didn’t involve medication and they were able to apply what they learned in a way that made a difference.”

During acupuncture, patients have thin needles inserted into specific points on the body to relieve pain. The Alexander technique is an educational process that teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscular and mental tension to help restore natural balance. This may help reduce pain during everyday activities.

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine (see publication).

To book an appointment with an acupuncturist or our Alexander  technique therapist at York Clinic, phone 01904 709688 between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, or between 9am and 2pm on Saturdays.  Alternatively, email us at email@yorkclinic.com, or use our contact form.  We will respond to you as quickly as possible.

Alexander Technique teachers and students

The Alexander Technique is a practical self-care and self-development method. It is an educational process; Alexander Technique practitioners are called teachers and their clients are pupils or students rather than patients. The lessons are tailored to individual needs and capabilities, with teachers using gentle hands-on guidance and dialogue to teach core principles and skills. Students learn greater self-awareness. They are taught to avoid poor postural and movement habits which cause strain and imbalance, and to react and move with less tension.

In light of the rising profile of the Alexander Technique in the UK, a group of researchers (including York Clinic’s director Hugh MacPherson) set out to produce a comprehensive description of Alexander teachers and their students. The results of this research were published last month [1].

The study shows that the majority of both teachers and students are female, with teachers being predominantly well-educated and self-employed. Nearly two-thirds of students began Alexander lessons for musculoskeletal symptoms such as back, neck or shoulder pain, or for general posture. A further 18% began lessons because of a general interest in the Technique or for general well-being, tension release and generalised stiffness. Other reasons included psychological problems such as stress or depression and neurological problems such as headaches, Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.

The final 10% fell into a category labelled ‘performance’. This was split into three sections: ‘vocal’ for performance related to voice, singing, and acting; ‘musical instrument’ for performance associated with playing an instrument; and ‘sport’, which represented a range of physical activities such as horse riding, golf, swimming, running, martial arts and yoga. The number of people being treated for vocal or musical instrument performance is double that for sport (4%, 4%, 2% respectively). The Technique is widely taught in drama, music and dance colleges to help improve performance skills and alleviate performance anxiety and the likelihood of injury. Musicians do some of the most complex and demanding physical movements of any profession.

The Alexander Technique is taught at the York Clinic by Mary Greene. Mary also teaches at the York Alexander Technique School (YATS) for trainee Alexander teachers, and until recently worked at the Hull York Medical School and in the University of York’s Music Department.

To book an appointment with Mary, phone 01904 709688 between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, or between 9am and 2pm on Saturdays. Alternatively, email us at email@yorkclinic.com or use our contact form.  We will respond to you as quickly as possible.

***

 Reference:

1. J. Eldred, A. Hopton, E. Donnison, J. Woodman, H. MacPherson. ‘Teachers of the Alexander Technique in the UK and the people who take their lessons: a national cross-sectional survey’ in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Published Online April 13, 2015.Abstract available online.

See also our blog post: ‘What is the Alexander Technique?’

 

What is the Alexander Technique?

Mary Greene Alexander TechniqueSimply put, the Alexander Technique teaches you not to exert too much pressure on your joints or over-stress yourself as you cope with the challenges of day-to-day life. An Alexander Teacher can guide you to accurate body/mind awareness, giving you the skills to avoid strain and imbalance in your daily activities. You are taught to become aware of poor postural and movement habits, and to react and move with less tension. By working with your mind and body in unison, you consciously become more co-ordinated and poised. This can bring about profound, lasting, positive changes to painful conditions such as back and neck pain, RSI, and tension headaches.

The Alexander Technique can also help with anxiety and stress-related problems, breathing and vocal difficulties, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis. It can be helpful during and after pregnancy, and can improve performance and prevent injury in sport, music and drama. It can enhance business and presentation skills, and help you to be alert and focussed with less strain. It is therefore a great method for personal development, creating self-awareness and improved general wellbeing.

You can learn the Alexander Technique in a number of different ways. Private, one-to-one lessons are an ideal opportunity for addressing individual needs. During the lesson, the teacher uses gentle hands-on guidance and verbal explanation to help you to recognise and release unnecessary tension. You will be taught to find ease and balance within yourself in simple movements, such as sitting, standing, walking or bending. You might also explore specific activities such as playing a musical instrument, working at the computer, or playing a sport. Part of the lesson may include lying on a table. This allows for maximum support and relief for the back, while the teacher uses gentle manipulation to help release tight connective tissue and joints.

Alternatively, two people might share a lesson. Each person gets some individual attention, but they can also work together and learn from seeing each other being taught. Another option is to attend group classes and/or workshops. These give an overview of how the Alexander Technique can be applied to particular activities, with participants working and together to learn from each other and from discussions led by the teacher. Classes and workshops might be tailored to particular activities or groups of people, such as back care for gardeners or for parents of young children.

The Alexander Technique is taught at the York Clinic by Mary Greene, who trained at the Cumbria Alexander Training School in Kendal. Mary has worked at the York clinic since 2008. She also teaches at the York Alexander Technique School (YATS) for trainee Alexander teachers, and until recently worked at the Hull York Medical School, and in the University of York’s Music Department.

Book an appointment with Mary Greene at York Clinic.

Further reading:

Mary’s website:  http://www.marygreene.co.uk

The website of the Society of Teachers of Alexander Technique (STAT): http://www.stat.org.uk

Recent Clinical Research: British Medical Journal, Aug. 2008: ‘Lessons in the Alexander Technique have long term benefits for chronic back pain’.