Low back pain is common, can be difficult to treat and causes significant morbidity, particularly when it becomes chronic. The Alexander technique aims to develop skills that help people avoid poor habits which affect postural tone and neuromuscular coordination. Promisingly, the technique appears to be effective in treating patients with low back pain, according to the results of a UK randomised controlled trial. A total of 579 patients with chronic recurrent low back pain were randomly assigned to groups receiving either normal care, massage, or six or 24 Alexander technique lessons from registered teachers. After the lessons, half of each intervention group received a prescription for exercise by a doctor, with behavioural counselling from a nurse. The outcome measure was based on a score measuring impairment by pain. Either six or 24 lessons in the Alexander technique and prescription of exercise remained effective at 1 year, but massage did not show long-term benefit. The authors suggest that the technique may limit muscle spasm, strengthen postural muscles, and improve coordination and flexibility, thus leading to a reduction in back pain.
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