- How were the results/outcomes measured?
Two main outcome measures were used, the principal one being the Roland Morris disability scale. This consists of 28 statements representing the ways that back pain affects a patient’s life – the number of statements agreed with in a standard questionnaire is the score. The lower the score, the better is the patient’s condition. Functional improvement was assessed by using this scale.
The other main outcome measure was the number of days in pain in the past four weeks. Ten secondary outcome measures were also used.
What were the main results of the trial?
- The best results were seen in the 24 AT lesson group, with important improvements in function, quality of life and reduction in days in pain. One year after the trial started, the average number of activities limited by low back pain (the RM disability score) had fallen by 42%, and the number of days in pain was only three per month, compared with 21 days in pain in the control group.
- At three months after the trial started all the intervention groups six and 24 AT lessons, exercise and massage showed some significant benefit compared with the normal GP care control group.
- One year results for Exercise and Massage:
The exercise groups had improved function, with the disability score better at one year than at three months; days in pain were not significantly different from the control group (21 days).
The massage groups three month improvement in the disability score was not maintained; days in pain (14) were still less than the control group (21 days).
- Since the effect of massage on the disability score was no longer significant by one year, but the three month beneficial effect of 6 AT lessons was maintained, the authors concluded that the long-term benefits of taking Alexander Technique lessons are unlikely to be due to placebo effects of attention and touch and more likely to be due to active learning of the technique.
- At one year, a series of six AT lessons followed by GP prescribed aerobic exercise (mainly walking) was about 70% as beneficial as a series of 24 AT lessons alone.
The results show that taking AT lessons can have a long-term beneficial effect, significantly decreasing days in pain and improving the functioning and quality of life of patients.