Alexander Technique: Cost Effective Option for Chronic Back Pain


There’s more good news for people suffering with back pain. A new article was published in the BMJ on 11 Dec ’08, which gives an economic analysis of the research into different treatments for back pain, including the Alexander Technique, that was published in the BMJ Aug ’08.

The findings of the ATEAM Trial show that massage offered little long term benefit for patients with simple back pain and that a Doctor’s exercise prescription, on its own, resulted in just a moderate effect on disability scores. However, the Alexander Technique performed better, on all the measured outcomes, than either massage or exercise.

If you would like more information about this research, you may read my article on the topic here:  ATEAM Trial into Treatments for Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain

Economic Analysis of the ATEAM Trial

The Economic Analysis of the ATEAM research results has now shown that just six Alexander Technique lessons followed by exercise was ‘the most effective, and cost effective option’. The paper goes on to suggest that this option is one that could possibly be used by the NHS in Primary Care, for patients with chronic back pain.

Meanwhile the Alexander Technique is, of course, still available as private lessons.

It is important to remember that not all back pain can be resolved in just six Alexander Technique lessons plus some exercise. However, it is encouraging to see that the highest significant long term improvement in disability scores plus an improvement the patient’s quality of life, can be seen – and that this also offers a cost effective option for chronic back pain sufferers.

If you would like to read the full economic analysis of the ATEAM Trial visit: BMJ 2008;337:a2656

BMJ publishes ATEAM Research showing 1:1 Alexander Technique lessons help reduce low back pain

There is good news for people interested in the Alexander Technique and for anyone who is suffering from chronic back pain.

The BMJ has just published the results of the ATEAM Research Trial which shows that people who had 1:1 lessons in the Alexander Technique, with a registered teacher, experienced a significant reduction in levels of back pain along with an improvement in the quality of their life. Importantly, these results were sustained one year later.

It is likely that if people maintain their improved use and application of the Technique,  the results could be sustained for even longer but it has not been possible to clinically evaluate this as yet.

Recurrent back pain is extremely common and is one of the main causes of disability and absence from work in developed societies. However, until now there has been little clinical evidence to show which treatments may help people and the ATEAM trial now shows that supervised exercise can have some benefit, massage has less but that the Alexander Technique offers the greatest long term benefit for people with non-specific back pain.



As one of the registered A/T teachers selected to teach on the ATEAM Research Trial, I am particularly pleased that the results show so clearly that learning the Alexander Technique can be of great benefit for people with low back pain. Alexander teachers have known for a long time that the Technique can help people with chronic back pain and it is good that there is now some statistically significant evidence to this effect that we can put before the scientific and medical community. You can read my article about the ATEAM Trial here.

If you would like more information about the Technique or individual Alexander Technique Lessons in Stoke Newington N16, you may contact me here.

You may also phone me:
+44 (0) 20 7254 9206

Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain
BMJ 2008;337:a884


‘Skeletons’ Exhibition at the Wellcome Collection July ’08

Skeletons – London’s Buried Bones’

If you are interested in how your body works plus how your posture, the way you use yourself and live your life, can leave it’s mark on the structure of your bones, you may want to visit the              ‘Skeletons: London’s Buried Bones’ Exhibition that has just opened at the Wellcome Collection.

The skeletons on display are from the Museum of London’s collection of 17,000 skeletons that have come from people who lived and worked in the London area over the last 16 centuries.

This exhibition looks at the events and health hazards of the day, that affected people’s lives and their skeletons. There will also be a day of activities for all ages and a public debate about why the dead are useful to study.

Perhaps seeing the wear and tear on all those bones, may encourage us to be more aware of our own body use, right now, so that we change some of our unhelpful and even damaging habits and learn to do as much as possible to look after our own skeletons!
Venue: Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road

Date:   23 July – 28 September



Alexander Technique You Tube Channel

STAT has just announced the launch of the STAT YouTube Channel. 

This interesting new resource is designed to let people find out more about the Alexander Technique in an easily accessible manner. So far, 28 film clips have been posted, which illustrate different teaching styles and approaches to the Technique. These have been produced and edited by David Reed, MSTAT.

You can even see an extract from a film of F M Alexander himself as he taught Margaret Goldie, who in her turn taught the Alexander Technique for over 60 years. There are also films showing some ‘first generation’ and senior Alexander Teachers, who demonstrate aspects of the Technique plus their own styles of teaching and running workshops.

It is hoped that there will be an increasing number of videos on the site, from a wide variety of sources and STAT would welcome films that show A/T teachers in action.

This is a great way to extend your understanding of the Alexander Technique and it brings the work into a lively focus. Try it!

Think of your Use at an Art Exhibition and Avoid Back Pain

Ellen Graubart

Ellen is an artist who is familiar with the Alexander Technique. She held a solo exhibition locally, which was well worth going to see.  I’ll let the painting speak for itself but will add that her work is even better in reality. It was an exciting and vibrant exhibition.

Thumbnail image for Sailing 2. Ellen Graubart JPG Art exhibitions are a time when many people end up with back ache, because they are standing for long periods without being aware of the way they are using their bodies. Looking up above eye level to see a painting, without awareness, can contribute to the problem if we contract our neck and the muscles in our lower back. This can create problems such as a hollow back, putting pressure onto the lumbar vertebrae and discs, which causes discomfort and even back pain.

So take yourself to art exhibitions and remember all you have learned in Alexander lessons; be aware of your use, look after your neck and back so that you remain freely poised and pain-free.

Sailing 2 – Ellen Graubart

The Alexander Technique and the use of your mobile phone.

How do you use your mobile phone?

I’m not talking about which button you press…  Rather, do you think of applying the Alexander Technique to the way you use yourself when using your mobile?  Watch other people using a phone, it can be an eye-opener. You may well see habits that you can recognise as being similar to your own, so that you can learn from them about your own use (and mis-use).

The phone between shoulder and ear

The most exaggerated way of mis-using yourself when phoning, is to clamp the phone between your ear and your shoulder whilst you continue another activity with your hands free.  With this habit, it is usually the same shoulder that always gets scrunched up. Just think about what happens to your neck, as you continually compress down on one side of the vertebrae. Neck and shoulder pains will soon be on their way, if they are not with you yet, unless you stop this habit.

Making a ‘private’ space with our body

Another common form of mis-use, often seen in busy open plan offices and noisy public places, is to thrust the neck forwards, curling in and downwards whilst talking, in an attempt to gain some sense of privacy. This is a particularly frequent form of mis-use seen in mobile phone users. This cannot create the private space we would like but it does create tension and problems in the neck, shoulder and upper torso. These become very tight, stiff and pulled down into a forward curve as we box ourselves in, often resulting in back and shoulder pain as a result of developing a pronounced kyphosis.

Our sensory appreciation is often faulty, so we can be unaware of such habits of mis-use, even when we are conscientious about applying the Alexander Technique in other areas of our life.


One young woman realised that this habit was so strong that it felt impossible for her to use her left hand and ear during a phone call, even though her hearing functioned perfectly well in both ears. Now that’s a strong habit that was purely built around her perceptions. However, once aware of her pattern, the young woman could begin to let go of it and work to improve her use, both during Alexander lessons and during her phone calls.

This sort of habit is a good example of how our thoughts and attitudes
get played out in our bodies, illustrating the way the body and mind
interact and work as one.

Climate Change and the means-whereby we live

Do you want to know more about the process of climate change, written in easy to understand language? The BBC have created some graphics, based on scientific research, that do just that.

Compare the levels of climate change it’s predicted we’ll create through our present greedy consumption of fossil fuels, with the lower levels we could bring about with more sustainable lifestyles:

In the Alexander Technique we aim to improve our individual use and the means-whereby we gain our own immediate, personal ends, so that we look after our health and wellbeing. This attitude of mind can be expanded, to develop awareness of our use in relation to the world’s shrinking resources and of our impact on the environment.

In order to gain the end that most of us agree that we want, ie a world in which we do not contribute to global warming, we need to address our increasing mis-use
of these natural resources. The means-whereby most of us are living now, seems to be
having a negative impact on the environment. We can all make conscious choices to live more sustainably, inhibit our unthinking and wasteful habits and bring about changes to improve the situation.

For ideas about how you can make positive changes and live more sustainably, visit:

Friends of the Alexander Technique

Many Alexander Technique pupils find that it is easier to utilise their learning when they meet up with others who are also interested in the Technique.  When people around us also use, discuss and think about the Technique during their activities, such as going for a walk or having a cup of coffee together, its application becomes much more ‘ordinary’ and a part of daily life, which is what we are aiming at.

One way of helping this process is to join Friends of the Alexander Technique, a registered charity that is linked to STAT. You can join online or pick up an application form from Hilary.

For a small annual fee you can receive the Alexander Journal and some e-mail newsletters, plus attend various workshops and events around the country which can help you extend your understanding of the work and stimulate a deeper interest in the Technique.

As a Friend, you will become part of a wide-reaching community that shares an Alexander outlook on life and it would be possible for you to set up events specifically for A/T Friends.

There is also a move to create an Alexander Orchestra, which musical Friends can join, the details of which you can find on the Friends’ Website.

Alexander Technique and Tai Chi compared

Guardian Article on the Alexander Technique

Sam Murphy of the Guardian has written another article about the Alexander Technique this time comparing it to Tai Chi on a number of parameters (17th Nov ’07).  The article makes for interesting reading and it is good that he is discussing the Technique.

Murphy compares various research studies into the two disciplines and it is true to say that there needs to be more research undertaken into the Alexander Technique, as scientific ‘evidence’ about its effectiveness is a little flimsy.

An important difference between the two, is that the Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises but becomes more of a way of life. An important aim of the Alexander Technique is to learn how to improve the use of our bodies, whatever we happen to be doing – so we can apply it to improve our Tai Chi practice, for instance. However, the calmness and spiritual aspects of both disciplines do perhaps have some similarities.

One statement that Murphy makes, I would like to query.  He says that ‘Good posture, at rest or in movement, is the raison d’etre of the Alexander Technique’. Certainly, our posture tends to improve as a result of learning the Technique but it is the means-whereby we bring about those changes, which is important. This is because we don’t just ‘sit up straight’, but learn to let go of our habitual reactions, along with the associated mis-use that tends to distort our natural poise.  We then give ourselves directions that bring about changes in the way we use ourselves and in so doing, we allow our bodies to re-align. Good posture is usually an outcome of taking lessons, providing the pupil applies their learning of the Technique to their daily life, but is not the main aim of the work.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to quote Alexander himself, as reported by some of his pupils:

You are not here to do exercises or to learn to do something right, but to get able to meet a stimulus that always puts you wrong and to learn to deal with it’.

F M Alexander – Aphorisms


Finding Quiet Strength

In 2022, my colleague Judith Kleinman published an excellent and beautifully illustrated book called ‘Finding Quiet Strength‘.  In this book, Judith ‘integrates F M Alexander’s discoveries with chi kung and tai chi’ and in it she explores how incorporating these ancient traditions into our lives can help us restore a sense of being centred and help us regain conscious control. Well worth reading !