Patients' views of receiving lessons in the Alexander technique and an exercise prescription for managing back pain in the ATEAM trial

Family Practice. 2010;272:198-204.

Yardley L, Dennison L, Coker R, Webley F, Middleton K, Barnett J, Beattie A, Evans M, Smith P, Little P

Centre for Applications of Health Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK. l.yardley@soton.ac.uk

This study involved interviews with participants in the ATEAM back pain trial to find out their experience of learning the Alexander Technique.

Read the paper here: https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/27/2/198/510429

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Lessons in the Alexander Technique and exercise prescription proved effective for managing low back pain in primary care in a clinical trial.

OBJECTIVES

To understand trial participants' expectations and experiences of the Alexander Technique and exercise prescription.

METHODS

A questionnaire assessing attitudes to the intervention, based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, was completed at baseline and 3-month follow-up by 183 people assigned to lessons in the Alexander Technique and 176 people assigned to exercise prescription. Semi-structured interviews to assess the beliefs contributing to attitudes to the intervention were carried out at baseline with14 people assigned to the lessons in the Alexander Technique and 16 to exercise prescription, and at follow-up with 15 members of the baseline sample.

RESULTS

Questionnaire responses indicated that attitudes to both interventions were positive at baseline but became more positive at follow-up only in those assigned to lessons in the Alexander Technique. Thematic analysis of the interviews suggested that at follow-up many patients who had learned the Alexander Technique felt they could manage back pain better. 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.

CONCLUSION

Using the Alexander Technique was viewed as effective by most patients. Acceptability may have been superior to exercise because of a convincing rationale and social support and a better perceived fit with the patient's particular symptoms and lifestyle.

Back problems

I was looking for some way to help manage my lower back problems without relying on pain relief medication. I have found my one-to-one AT sessions extremely helpful and have learnt to identify and avoid postures and actions that contribute to back pain. I now know how to relax and properly rest my back and neck. In my experience, AT is a whole body technique which can help one to be more self-aware and to understand how to move with less tension and consequently, with less effort. Hurray for AT!

Patricia Brooks

See the benefits of Alexander Technique