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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Alexander Technique Lessons or Acupuncture Sessions for Persons With Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Trial

Hugh MacPherson, Helen Tilbrook, Stewart Richmond, Julia Woodman, Kathleen Ballard, Karl Atkin, Martin Bland, Janet Eldred, Holly Essex, Catherine Hewitt, Ann Hopton, Ada Keding, Harriet Lansdown, Steve Parrott, David Torgerson, Aniela Wenham, Ian Watt
Annals of Internal Medicine 2015 November 3, 163 (9): 653-62
26524571

BACKGROUND: Management of chronic neck pain may benefit from additional active self-care-oriented approaches.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate clinical effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons or acupuncture versus usual care for persons with chronic, nonspecific neck pain.

DESIGN: Three-group randomized, controlled trial. (Current Controlled Trials: ISRCTN15186354).

SETTING: U.K. primary care.

PARTICIPANTS: Persons with neck pain lasting at least 3 months, a score of at least 28% on the Northwick Park Questionnaire (NPQ) for neck pain and associated disability, and no serious underlying pathology.

INTERVENTION: 12 acupuncture sessions or 20 one-to-one Alexander lessons (both 600 minutes total) plus usual care versus usual care alone.

MEASUREMENTS: NPQ score (primary outcome) at 0, 3, 6, and 12 months (primary end point) and Chronic Pain Self-Efficacy Scale score, quality of life, and adverse events (secondary outcomes).

RESULTS: 517 patients were recruited, and the median duration of neck pain was 6 years. Mean attendance was 10 acupuncture sessions and 14 Alexander lessons. Between-group reductions in NPQ score at 12 months versus usual care were 3.92 percentage points for acupuncture (95% CI, 0.97 to 6.87 percentage points) (P = 0.009) and 3.79 percentage points for Alexander lessons (CI, 0.91 to 6.66 percentage points) (P = 0.010). The 12-month reductions in NPQ score from baseline were 32% for acupuncture and 31% for Alexander lessons. Participant self-efficacy improved for both interventions versus usual care at 6 months (P < 0.001) and was significantly associated (P < 0.001) with 12-month NPQ score reductions (acupuncture, 3.34 percentage points [CI, 2.31 to 4.38 percentage points]; Alexander lessons, 3.33 percentage points [CI, 2.22 to 4.44 percentage points]). No reported serious adverse events were considered probably or definitely related to either intervention.

LIMITATION: Practitioners belonged to the 2 main U.K.-based professional associations, which may limit generalizability of the findings.

CONCLUSION: Acupuncture sessions and Alexander Technique lessons both led to significant reductions in neck pain and associated disability compared with usual care at 12 months. Enhanced self-efficacy may partially explain why longer-term benefits were sustained.

PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: Arthritis Research UK.

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