The Alexander Technique has been scientifically studied and validated in a variety of fields, demonstrating its use and benefits for back and neck pain sufferers, hand surgeons challenged with uncomfortable positions for hours at a time, muscoloskeletar disorders in workers resulting from occupational demands, and postural coordination, to name just a few.
One of the most interesting studies, a back pain study published by the British Medical Journal in 2008, showed a significant decrease in pain after just six Alexander Technique sessions:
One to one lessons in the Alexander technique from registered teachers have long term benefits for patients with chronic back pain. Six lessons followed by exercise prescription were nearly as effective as 24 lessons.
Here is a selection of studies, all published in peer-reviewed scientific journals or presented at conferences with peer-reviewed abstracts:
Lighten Up: Specific Postural Instructions Affect Axial Rigidity and Step Initiation in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease Cohen, Rajal et al (2015). Neural Rehabilitation & Neural Repair, Journal of the American Society of Neurorehabilitation
Instructions based on the Alexander Technique given to people with Parkinson's Disease led to reduced postural sway, reduced axial postural tone, greater modifiability of tone, and a smoother center of pressure trajectory during step initiation, possibly indicating greater movement efficiency.
Neuromuscular interference of posture on movement: evidence of Alexander Technique teachers rising from chair Timothy W. Cacciatore, Omar S. Mian, Amy Peters, Brian L. Day Journal of Neurophysiology. Published 1 August 2014 Vol. 112 no. 719-729 DOI: 0.1152/jn.00617.2013
While Alexander Technique (AT) teachers have been reported to stand up by shifting weight gradually as they incline the trunk forward, healthy untrained (HU) adults appear unable to rise in this way. This study examines the hypothesis that HU have difficulty rising smoothly, and that this difficulty relates to reported differences in postural stiffness between groups.
Taking Charge, Choosing a New Direction: A Service Evaluation of Alexander Technique Lessons for Pain Clinic Patients (SEAT): an Approach to Pain Management McClean, S. and Wye, L. (June 2012) Project Report. UWE Bristol, Bristol.
A high quality clinical trial carried out in an experimental setting has demonstrated the therapeutic value and effectiveness of Alexander Technique (AT) lessons for chronic back pain. The findings suggest that lessons in the AT are feasible, acceptable and beneficial in terms of improving quality of life and patients' management of pain. Greatest changes were found in how the patients/students managed their pain (more than half stopped or reduced their medication) and the impact that the pain had on their daily lives. This also led to some behavioural changes and changes in awareness and self-knowledge on the part of the patients/students. These attitudinal and behavioural changes may explain the finding that students of the AT appeared to reduce their pain related NHS costs by half.
Download full report here (will open in new window)
Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in medical and health-related conditions: a systematic review Woodman J.P., Moore N.R. International Journal of Clinical Practice January 2012
The aim of this review was to systematically evaluate available evidence for the effectiveness and safety of instruction in the Alexander Technique in health-related conditions. Conclusions: Strong evidence exists for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons for chronic back pain and moderate evidence in Parkinson’s-associated disability. Preliminary evidence suggests that Alexander Technique lessons may lead to improvements in balance skills in the elderly, in general chronic pain, posture, respiratory function and stuttering, but there is insufficient evidence to support recommendations in these areas.
Alexander Technique: Training for the self-management of workers to prevent musculoskeletal disorders Mora i Griso, Mireia. Foment del Treball Nacional de Catalunya (2011)
A descriptive and comparative study of precedents where the Alexander Technique has been applied as a tool to prevent occupational risks in different organisational settings throughout the world. Full report in English here and Spanish here.
Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practictioners of the Alexander Technique. Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Day B.Gait and Posture, June 2011.
This study compared coordination of 14 teachers of the Alexander Technique to 15 healthy control subjects during rising from a chair. The Alexander Technique teachers were able to achieve a smoother, more continuous movement than the control subjects, consistent with previous claims that the Alexander Technique teaches more efficient movement.
Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training. Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Cordo PJand Ames KE. Human Movement Science, 2011 February; 30(1): 74–89.
This study quantified postural tone by measuring resistance in the hips, trunk, and neck to very slow twisting during standing. Comparing teachers of the Alexander Technique (who undergo 1600 hours of training over three years) to age-matched control subjects, resistance was 50% lower while phase advance was greater. Similar changes (to a lesser degree) occurred in subjects with lower back pain after undergoing ten weekly lessons in the Alexander Technique. These results suggest that the Alexander Technique enhances dynamic modulation of postural tone.
The Impact of the Alexander Technique in Improving Posture and Surgical Ergonomics during Minimally Invasive Surgery: Pilot Study. Reddy P et al. Journal of Urology, October 2011. Volume 186, Issue 4, Supplement, Pages 1658-1662.
(Poster presentation at The American Urological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco.)
This pilot study found that surgeons who underwent instruction in the Alexander Technique experienced a significant improvement in posture and surgical ergonomics as well as decreased surgical fatigue.
Randomised Controlled Trial of Alexander Technique Lessons, Exercise, and Massage (ATEAM) for Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain. Little P et al (2008). British Medical Journal 337:a884.
In this study, 579 subjects with chronic and recurrent back pain were randomized to receive massage, six Alexander Technique lessons, 24 Alexander Technique lessons, or no intervention. In addition, half of the subjects were encouraged to walk regularly. A year later, the group with no intervention had 21 days of pain per month. The group with massage had 14 days of pain per month. The group with six Alexander Technique lessons reported 11 days of pain per month, and the group with 24 Alexander Technique lessons reported three days of pain per month. There were no adverse effects.
Audio interview with the lead author of the ATEAM study.
Patients’ views of receiving lessons in the Alexander Technique and an exercise prescription for managing back pain in the ATEAM trial. Yardley L et al (2010). Family Practice 27 (2):198-204.
Subjects from the ATEAM study (above) were interviewed about their experience with the Alexander Technique lessons and exercise. Whereas many obstacles to exercising were reported, few barriers to learning the Alexander Technique were described, since it ‘made sense’, could be practiced while carrying out everyday activities or relaxing, and the teachers provided personal advice and support. (Abstract)
Improvement in Automatic Postural Coordination Following Alexander Technique Lessons in a Person with Low Back Pain. Cacciatore TW, Horak FB, Henry SM (2005). Physical Therapy, 85(6):565-78.
This case report describes the use of the Alexander Technique with a client with a 25-year history of low back pain. After lessons, her postural responses and balance improved and her pain decreased. The introduction includes a thorough explanation of the Alexander Technique from a scientific perspective.
Effects of Alexander Technique on Muscle Activation During a Computer-Mouse Task: Potential for Reduction in Repetitive Strain Injuries. Shafarman E, Geisler MW (2003). American Psychological Association Convention, Toronto, Canada.
In this preliminary study of computer mouse use, subjects without Alexander Technique training could reduce muscle activation only by slowing down, whereas subjects with Alexander Technique experience were able to reduce muscle activation while continuing to move rapidly. Implications for prevention of repetitive strain injury are discussed. The work was written up in Alexander Journal, 21. Available from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique(an affiliated society in the United Kingdom) or from the lead author of the study: E. Shafarman.
Randomized Controlled Trial of the Alexander Technique for Ideopathic Parkinson's Disease. Stallibrass C, Sissons P, Chalmers C (2002). Clinical Rehabilitation, 16(7):695-708.
This study assigned 93 subjects to receive Alexander Technique lessons, massage, or no treatment. AT lessons (but not massage) led to significant improvement in self-assessed disability, both immediately after the lessons and six months later.
Functional reach improvement in normal older women after Alexander Technique instruction. Dennis (1999). Journal of Gerontology - Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences, 54A(1): M8-M11.
Women aged 65-88 who received 8 Alexander Technique lessons showed a 36% improvement in forward-reaching distance (a common measure of balance control), while control subjects of the same age showed a 6% decrease over the same time-period.
Enhanced Respiratory Muscular Function in Normal Adults after Lessons in Proprioceptive Musculo-skeletal Education without Exercises. Austin J, Ausubel P (1992). Chest, 102:486-490.
This study examined respiratory function in adults. Spirometry tests demonstrated that Alexander Technique lessons led to improvement of respiratory muscular function.
Early Experiences of a Multidisciplinary Pain Management Programme. Fisher K (1988). Holistic Medicine, 3(1):47-56. (Note: the journal has since been renamed Journal of Interprofessional Medicine.)
Chronic pain sufferers participated in a multiple-intervention study. During the study, after three months, and one year later, the subjects rated the Alexander Technique as the most helpful method for relieving chronic pain.
Method for Changing Stereotyped Response Patterns by the Inhibition of Certain Postural Sets. Jones FP (1965). Psychological Review, 72, (3):196-214.
Postural habits can be profoundly affected by the Alexander Technique, specifically by learning and applying the concept of inhibition. Frank Pierce Jones was a pioneer in the study of human movement, and a teacher of the Alexander Technique. A collection of his publications can be found in the book Freedom to Change - The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique (available in AmSAT Bookstore).
The following list includes a Nobel Laureate speech and a book.
Nobel Lecture entitled Ethology and Stress Diseases. Tinbergen N (1973).
Nikolaas Tinbergen, Nobel Laureate, wrote about F. M. Alexander, the importance of Alexander's discoveries and the benefits he and his wife experienced from lessons. He strongly recommended it as a sophisticated form of rehabilitation for all stress-related diseases, i.e., rheumatism, high blood pressure, breathing problems and sleep disorders.
Video of Nikolaas Tinbergen's Nobel lecture, the last third of which is devoted to his discussion of Alexander's work and its various beneficial effects.
A Study of Stress Amongst Professional Musicians. Nielsen M (1994). In: The Alexander Technique: Medical and Physiological Aspects, Chris Stevens (Ed.) STAT Books, London.
This study examined performance stress in musicians, and found that the Alexander Technique was as effective as beta-blocker medications in controlling the stress response during an orchestra performance.