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Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is a programme to learn better posture habits to help improve problems including back pain, stiff neck and shoulder pain.

The technique was developed by an Australian actor called Frederick Matthias Alexander in the 1890s. He first used the methods to deal with vocal problems after watching himself in the mirror.

The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique say it gives "optimum balance, posture and co-ordination in everything you do."

What is it?

The Alexander Technique aims to limit muscle spasms, strengthen muscles used in posture, improve coordination and flexibility, while also decompressing the spine.

In an Alexander Technique lesson, a specially trained teacher assesses a person's patterns of muscle and spine use for daily activities, including sitting and lying down.

The teacher is gently hands-on rather than manipulating any bones or joints.

The Alexander Technique may also be recommended for repetitive strain injury (RSI) or carpal tunnel syndrome.

'The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique' says that rather than being about treatments or exercises, it is "a re-education of the mind and body."

Although no strenuous exercise is involved, loose clothing is recommended and you may have to take your shoes off.

What's the evidence?

One UK study in 2008, published in the BMJ, found the Alexander Technique was more effective at reducing long-term back pain than exercise alone or massage therapy.

The NHS says there's some evidence that the Alexander Technique can help elderly people avoid falls by improving balance.

The technique is also sometimes offered for breathing problems.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) highlights the Alexander Technique as a way of helping people with Parkinson’s disease make physical and mental lifestyle changes.

How do I get the Alexander Technique?

Most people pay privately and sessions last for around 30 to 45 minutes. Costs vary from area to area, but can be around £35-£50 per lesson. Some NHS areas include it in pain clinics. It is also available with some private health insurance plans.

A basic course involves around 20 lessons.

Lessons may take place in special premises, in businesses, schools, colleges or a teacher's home.

The Alexander Technique is a type of complementary therapy, so isn't regulated in the same way as health professionals are. If you are considering lessons, make sure the teacher is registered with one of the UK's Alexander Technique organisations, or the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

Complementary therapies should be used alongside general medical treatment rather than replacing it.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on July 09, 2015

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