Although Alexander Technique lessons are a well-known means of helping people with conditions such as back pain, this is the first time researchers have looked into whether this approach can have any effect on knee osteoarthritis.
The patients – aged from 40-70 and recruited from GPs across
Greater Manchester – each attended 20 one to one lessons in the Technique over
a period of 12 weeks and were encouraged to continue applying the skills they
had learned as they went about their daily activities.
They were tested on a
range of factors before and after the sessions, while the same tests were also
carried out with a healthy control group of people who were the same age.
The researchers used
electromyography (EMG) to measure the level of activation of the patients’ leg
muscles before and after the sessions.
The results showed that their muscles had previously been over-contracting,
making their legs stiff, and this was reduced following their Alexander
This was significant
as people with osteoarthritis often over-contract their knee muscles, possibly
in response to pain, which can put too much pressure on knee joints and
increase the likelihood of patients eventually needing a knee replacement.
asked to assess themselves using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities
Arthritis Index (WOMAC) scale – a standard questionnaire test which records
pain and stiffness and is used to evaluate the disease severity of patients
suffering from conditions such as arthritis.
The researchers found
there was a 56 per cent reduction in the overall pain ‘score’ of those who had
taken part in the Alexander Technique sessions.
The reduction in the
amount of pain they were experiencing was also maintained when the patients
were tested again, 15 months after these sessions finished.
Dr Steve Preece,
Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the University of Salford Centre for
Health Science Research, said: “Although Alexander Technique lessons have been
used successfully to help people with a range of problems, this is the first
time anyone has studied their effectiveness in helping people with
osteoarthritis – a condition which affects nearly nine million people in the UK
and which will become much more prevalent as we have an ageing population.
“These sessions had a
marked impact on the patients we looked at, even 15 months later, and this
research could point the way towards a completely new approach for helping
people with osteoarthritis.”