Neck pain wordleResearchers in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, including York clinic’s Harriet Lansdown and Hugh MacPherson, have carried out a large scale investigation into whether chronic neck pain can be relieved by Alexander Technique or acupuncture.

Chronic neck pain is a difficult condition to treat. The literature shows that, generally, single interventions do not provide long term benefits. In this study, funded by Arthritis Research UK, the researchers compared Alexander Technique and acupuncture with usual care. They concluded that, when compared with usual care alone, both Alexander Technique and acupuncture reduced pain and associated disability over a 12 month period.

The research, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, recruited 517 patients from GP practices in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and York. Participants were randomly put into three groups and monitored over 12 months. One group received usual care only, which included prescribed medications and visits to GPs, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals. The second group received usual care plus up to twenty 30-minute lessons with teachers from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. The final group received usual care plus up to twelve 50-minute sessions of acupuncture based on traditional Chinese medical theory and delivered by members of the British Acupuncture Council. Twelve months after treatment finished, results showed that pain was reduced by 32% for those receiving acupuncture, and 31% for those undertaking Alexander Technique lessons, compared to those receiving usual care alone.

Hugh MacPherson, senior research fellow at the University of York and York Clinic’s director, said: “We found statistically significant reductions in neck pain associated with Alexander Technique lessons and acupuncture at all time points. This is an important finding because for the first time we now have clear evidence that these two interventions provide longer-term benefits for chronic neck pain.”

To find out more about the research, you can read a summary of the published article.

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A version of this blog was also published by York Clinic’s Harriet Lansdown.