The May 2018 edition of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice presents a qualitative study of the 2015 clinical trial of Alexander Technique and Acupuncture. While previous publications have dealt with the quantitative results, this study analyses the participants’ experiences and investigates how the modalities attained positive results.
The randomised controlled study compared Alexander Technique, acupuncture and conventional treatment of people suffering chronic neck pain. It found that people using either alternative modalities experienced significant reductions in neck pain compared to those receiving usual care.
The full article on the qualitative study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice is available here:
An report on the quantitative study can be found here:
Disillusion with conventional care
In analysing interviews with participants, the researchers identified several themes. The first was a marked dissatisfaction and disempowerment associated with mainstream medical care.
The second theme was the participant’s response of the participants to ‘tangible benefits’ of Alexander Technique and acupuncture. Participants experienced a reduction in pain and depended less on pain killers. They reported feeling empowered by the capacity to be actively engaged in something to address their pain. Generally, there was a sense of relief, and a brighter outlook on life.
Factors contributing to reduction in neck pain
Going more deeply into this, the researchers collated various factors which were associated with improvement. Significant was the participants development of self-care and self-efficacy. The authors note the skill acquisition of Alexander Technique as significant as well as the effect of quality extended time with a qualified practitioner and the rapport of that relationship. Development self-awareness was also related to the capacity to manage tension.
Integrating pain management into lifestyle
The fourth themewhiceh emerged was the manner of integration of the process of change into the lives of the participants. The element of behavioural or lifestyle change seemed to be consistent with reduction in neck pain. Successful management of chronic pain was also a positive influence upon participants’ sense of self or identity. The concept of mind-body dualism was identified as a factor which participants were challenged by, but when embraced holistically was associated with positive outcomes. Participants reported that aside from specific reduction in neck pain, positive changes in many other aspects of life were associated with their sessions.
The final theme investigated how the benefits were sustained over time. The period of the trial was 12 months and at the end of this time participants reported a significant and sustained reduction in pain. Notably, participants were able to continue to self-manage pain well after the contact with practitioners was discontinued. In some cases, participants were independently able to continue to reduce pain levels.
The report is full of quotes from participants giving a broad spectrum of experience which readers can view direct from the source. The authors found many people willing to change and be actively involved in treating pain. They noted the variations in individual perception of pain and treatment.
Participants reported benefiting from self awareness which was associated with recognising and being able to release excessive tensions associated with pain. It was also noted that self awareness gave rise to a recognition that change was applied inseparably at a physical and mental level.
The authors note their results are consistent with other studies on Alexander Technique, and reference some of these as references at the end of the article.
“While Alexander Technique lessons ... have a therapeutic element, they are primarily principle-based education in the use of embodied thinking skills that enable people to improve muscle tone, postural support, movement coordination and balance, so reducing maladaptive musculoskeletal habits and the pain they cause.”
“We have shown how participants' experiences gained from Alexander lessons or acupuncture sessions enabled behavioural change towards better self-care and led to a sense of embodiment. These changes underpin the observed quantified improvement in self-efficacy and the associated longer-term reduction in pain.”
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