The key to good use and functioning is a well-coordinated neck, head and back.
The Alexander Technique
Science and Research
Alexander’s discovery of the key role that the neck/head/back relationship plays in our use and functioning was, in his own time, already being endorsed by eminent scientists:
1) Professor George Coghill (1872-1941), an American philosopher anatomist internationally acclaimed for his pioneering work into neuromuscular development, wrote to Alexander in 1939 that he was reading his work “with a great deal of interest and profit, amazed to see how you, years ago, discovered in human psychology and physiology the same principles which I worked out in the behaviour of the lower vertebrates.”
2) Rudolf Magnus (1873 – 1927), physiologist and Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Utrecht, made world famous by his seminal work on the physiology of posture, concluded that posture was controlled by a “central apparatus located in the sub-cortical area of the brain stem” and that consequently posture was governed by the position of the head.
3) Sir Charles Sherrington (1857-1952), Nobel Prize Winner for Physiology & Medicine in 1932, was very approving of Alexander’s teachings and wrote that “Mr Alexander has done a service to the subject (will and reflex action) by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psycho-physical man. To take a step is an affair, not of this or that limb solely but of the total neuro-muscular activity of the moment – not least of the head and neck.”
4) Professor Raymond Dart (1893-1988), Professor of Anatomy at the Witwatersrand University for many years and famous for his research into the origins of man, and work on developmental physiology, was first introduced to the Alexander Technique in 1943 and was so impressed by Alexander’s observations on the relationship between the human will and functioning of the neuromuscular system that he maintained they influenced him for the rest of his life.
In 1973 Nobel Prize winning Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907 – 88), Professor of Animal Behaviour at Oxford , was to devote half of his Nobel speech to the work of Alexander, stating that “Alexander’s story of perceptiveness, of intelligence, and of persistence, shown by a man without medical training, is one of the true epics of medical research and practice” and that he could already confirm, after only a few lessons himself, “some of the fantastic claims made by Alexander and his followers, namely that many types of underperformance and even ailments, both mental and physical, can be alleviated, sometimes to a surprising extent, by teaching the body musculature to function differently.”
*Photographs of F. M. Alexander © 2016, The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, London
There have been three randomised controlled trials published to date that demonstrate the effectiveness of one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons for people with chronic musculoskeletal conditions and also for Parkinson’s Disease sufferers.
1) The ATEAM trial, in 2008, funded by the Medical Research Council and the NHS Research & Development Fund, showed that Alexander Technique lessons give long-term benefit to chronic low back pain sufferers. One year after following a course of 24 Alexander Technique lessons, the effects from the lessons – significantly greater freedom of movement and reduced pain - were still being maintained.
The BMJ (British Medical Journal) produced a video to support the findings
of the trial.
2) The ATLAS trial, in 2013, based at the University of York and funded by Arthritis Research UK, showed that both Alexander Technique and Acupuncture led to marked reductions in chronic neck pain and associated disability which continued to be significant one year on. The participants were given either 20
30-minute AT lessons or 12 50-minute acupuncture sessions.
Part 1 https://youtu.be/Of-ofDaWS3g
Part 2 https://youtu.be/aCCpgyfCwBU
Good use in activity!
3) A clinical trial carried out in 2002 at the University of Westminster, London, showed that a course of 24 Alexander Technique lessons led to a significantly increased ability of people with Parkinson’s Disease to carry out
everyday activities, still maintained after 6 months. An additional finding showed that there was a lower rate of change
in medication for the participants as against the control group. There were also noted improvements in balance and stress reduction.
For more detail about these trials and other scientific research, please go to the Research page on the STAT website.
The most recent evidence contributing to the scientific basis of the Alexander Technique is presented in a new publication (2017) demonstrating a causal relationship between the regulation of neck muscles and whole-body motor control. The research has been headed by Professor Loram who is currently Professor of Neuromuscular Control in Human Movement at Manchester Metropolitan University.