F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) developed the method of postural and movement re-education we now call the Alexander Technique. Alexander discovered that the way we “use” ourselves has a dramatic impact on our overall functioning.
F.M. Alexander’s important discoveries came about through his attempts to understand and resolve his own difficulties with his voice and breathing. The work of F.M. Alexander first gained popularity in the early 1900’s with actors and people with breathing and vocal difficulties.
Quickly, the usefulness of the Alexander Technique to people with a range of issues was realized by medical doctors. Alexander became aware of relevant research being done at the time by Sherrington on neural conduction and by Magnus on the role of neck tone in posture and movement. He realized that the new understanding of what he termed “use” was supported by even the very first explorations into neuroscience and motor control.
The first research directly related to the Alexander Technique started in the 1950’s by Frank Pierce Jones (1965). Jones was a professor at Tufts University in Boston and an Alexander Teacher who taught himself new research methods in movement science in collaboration with the Tufts Psychology department. Jones performed many studies on the startle reflex and head poise, many using motion capture during the movement from sitting standing.
Since Jones’ pioneering work, research on the Alexander Technique has been increasing. The Alexander Technique has been shown to:
- Improve respiratory function (Austin & Ausubel, 1992);
- Improve balance in elderly individuals (Dennis, 1999);
- Decrease disability from Parkinson’s Disease (Stallibrass, Sissons & Chalmers, 2002; and
- Have potential for decreasing Repetitive Strain Injury (Shafarman & Geisler, 2006).
Taken together, this research suggests a wide range of issues improved by the Alexander Technique.
One of the most common issues that brings people to the Alexander Technique is back pain. In fact, the most compelling research done on the Alexander Technique shows that it can be very helpful for addressing back pain (Little et al, 2008; Cacciatore, Horak & Henry, 2005) and that Alexander lessons and exercise are a very cost-effective way to address back pain (Hollinghurst et al., 2009).
In addition to clinical research, there is research being done on the mechanisms by which the Alexander Technique decreases pain and disability. In a group of surgeons, Alexander lessons improved posture and surgical ergonomics (Reddy et al., 2011). Research on Alexander Technique practitioners suggests that long-term study of the Alexander Technique improves postural tone and can change how we coordinate basic movements (Cacciatore et al., 2011; Cacciatore, Gurfinkel, Horak & Day, 2011). This area of research continues to grow as the importance of the principles guiding the Alexander Technique becomes better understood.
There are a few Alexander teachers who have received PhD’s in neuroscience, psychology, or a related field who are involved in research related to the Alexander Technique. Please contact me if you are interested in collaborating on research related to the Alexander Technique and I will connect you with potential collaborators.
Alexander Technique Research Bibliography
Self-efficacy and embodiment associated with Alexander Technique lessons or with acupuncture sessions: A longitudinal qualitative sub-study within the ATLAS trial. (2018). Wenham A, Atkin K, Woodman J, Ballard K, MacPherson H. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice; 31:308–14. Full Article
Self-efficacy and self-care-related outcomes following Alexander Technique lessons for people with chronic neck pain in the ATLAS randomised, controlled trial. (2018). Woodman J, Ballard K, Hewitt C, MacPherson H. European Journal of Integrative Medicine; 17:64–71. Full Article
Preece, SJ, Jones, RK, Brown, CA, Cacciatore, TW, and Jones, AKP. (2016). Reductions in co-contraction following neuromuscular re-education in people with knee osteoarthritis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Aug 27;17:372. Full Article
Hamel K, Ross C, Shultz B, O’Neill MM, Anderson DI. (2016). Older adult Alexander Technique practitioners walk differently than healthy age-matched controls. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 20(4)751-760. Full Article
Cohen R, Gurfinkel VS, Kwak E, Warden AC, Horak FB (2015). Lighten Up: Specific Postural Instructions Affect Axial Rigidity and Step Initiation in Patients With Parkinson’s Disease. Neural Rehabilitation & Neural Repair, Oct 29(9):878-88. Full Article
O’Neill MM, Anderson DI, Allen DD, Ross C, Hamel K. (2015). Effects of Alexander Technique training experience on gait behavior in older adults. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 19(3):473-481. Full Article
Cacciatore TW, Mian OS, Peters A, Day BL. (2014). Neuromechanical interference of posture on movement: evidence from Alexander technique teachers rising from a chair. J Neurophysiol. Aug 1;112(3):719-29. Epub 2014 May 14. Full Article
Gleeson M, Sherrington C, Lo S, Keay L. (2015). Can the Alexander Technique improve balance and mobility in older adults with visual impairments? A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation, Vol. 29(3) 244–260. Full Article
Gleeson M, Sherrington C, Borkowski E, Keay L. (2014). Improving balance and mobility in people over 50 years of age with vision impairments: can the Alexander Technique help? A study protocol for the VISIBILITY randomised controlled trial. . Full Article
Little P, Stuart B, Stokes M, Nicholls C, Roberts L, Preece S, Cacciatore T, Brown S, Lewith G, Geraghty A, Yardley L, O’Reilly G, Chalk C, Sharp D, Smith P. (2014). Alexander technique and Supervised Physiotherapy Exercises in back paiN (ASPEN): a four-group randomised feasibility trial. Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation, 1(2). Full Article
McClean S. and Wye L. (2012). Taking Charge, Choosing a New Direction: A Service Evaluation of Alexander Technique Lessons for Pain Clinic Patients (SEAT): an Approach to Pain Management. Project Report. UWE Bristol, Bristol. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/16903 Full Article
Woodman JP, Moore NR. (2012). Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons in medical and health-related conditions: a systematic review. International Journal of Clinical Practice, Volume 66, Issue 1, pages 98–112. Full Article
Mireia Mora i Griso. (2011). Alexander Technique: Training for the self-management of workers to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Foment del Treball Nacional de Catalunya. Full Article
Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Day B. (2011). Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practictioners of the Alexander Technique. Gait and Posture, 34(4):496-501. Full Article, Audio
Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Cordo PJ & Ames KE. (2011). Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training. Human Movement Science, 30(1): 74–89. Full Article, Audio
Reddy P et al (2011). The Impact of the Alexander Technique on Improving Posture and Surgical Ergonomics During Minimally Invasive Surgery: Pilot Study. Journal of Urology, 186:1658-1662. Full Article
Yardley L, et al. (2010). Patients’ views of receiving lessons in the Alexander Technique and an exercise prescription for managing back pain in the ATEAM trial. Family Practice, 27 (2):198-204. Full Article
Hollinghurst, S, Sharp, D, Ballard, K, Barnett, J, Beattie, A, Evans, M, Lewith, G, Middleton, K, Oxford, F, Webley, F, & Little, P (2009). Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain: economic evaluation. British Medical Journal, 337;a2656. Full Article
Little P, et al. (2008). Randomised Controlled Trial of Alexander Technique Lessons, Exercise, and Massage (ATEAM) for Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain. British Medical Journal, 337:a884. Full Article, Video Part I, Video Part II, Audio
Shafarman, E, Geisler, MW. (2006). Effects of Alexander Technique on Muscle Activation During a Computer-Mouse Task: Potential for Reduction in Repetitive Strain Injuries. Alexander Journal, 21. 2006.
Cacciatore TW, Horak FB, Henry SM. (2005). Improvement in Automatic Postural Coordination Following Alexander Technique Lessons in a Person with Low Back Pain. Physical Therapy, 85(6):565-78. Full Article, Audio
Dennis, RJ. (1999). Functional reach improvement in normal older women after Alexander Technique instruction. Journal of Gerontology – Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences, 54A(1): M8-M11. Full Article
Austin J, Ausubel P. (1992). Enhanced Respiratory Muscular Function in Normal Adults after Lessons in Proprioceptive Musculo-skeletal Education without Exercises. Chest, 102:486-490. Full Article, Audio
Fisher K (1988). Early Experiences of a Multidisciplinary Pain Management Programme. Holistic Medicine, 3(1):47-56. (Note: the journal has since been renamed Journal of Interprofessional Medicine.) Full Article
Jones FP. (1965). Method for Changing Stereotyped Response Patterns by the Inhibition of Certain Postural Sets. Psychological Review, 72, (3):196-214. Full Article
Note: If you would like a copy of an article that does not have free access online, please email me and I would be happy to email it to you.