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Welcome to The Maris Practice Blog. Here you will find musings, reflections and information about best practice in alternative therapies. We hope you find it useful and interesting.

How Acupuncture and the Alexander Technique can help chronic neck pain


Neck pain is a common condition — so common, in fact, that the expression "a pain in the neck" is an often used figure of speech in English. It can be mild enough so that it is a mere annoyance, or severe enough that it can adversely affect the quality of one's life. Due the position and range of motion in the neck, and because it plays a vital role in the support of the head, the neck is more subject to injury than any other portion of the human spine.

A study was done in 2013 investigating the impact of the Alexander Technique and also Acupuncture on a total of 517 people with chronic non-specific neck pain. The participants were randomly placed in three groups:

  1. one got up to 20 half-hour Alexander Technique lessons,
  2. the second had up to a dozen 50-minute sessions of acupuncture, and
  3. the third group received standard treatments, such as medications and physical therapy.

For both the groups treated with Alexander Technique and Acupuncture, long-term improvements in pain and associated disability were seen. These were statistically significantly greater than those observed in the group who only received standard treatments. Furthermore, 1 year later on, the improvements were still large enough to be considered clinically relevant for both the Alexander Technique and the Acupuncture group. Overall, participants experienced nearly a third less pain and associated disability at the end of the trial than at the start. You can find more information about the ATLAS Study here.

So how do these two therapies help with neck pain?

Well Acupuncture works by:

  • Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
  • Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation which aids dispersal of swelling.

The Alexander Technique focuses on the following main principles:

  • how you move, sit and stand affects how well you function,
  • the relationship of the head, neck and spine is fundamental to your ability to function optimally,
  • becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to make changes and gain benefit,
  • the mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other.

Recommended by the NHS for long term neck pain, teachers of the Alexander Technique say that conditions such as backache and other sorts of long-term pain are often the result of misusing your body over a long period of time, such as moving inefficiently and standing or sitting with your weight unevenly distributed.

Our Posture and the Alexander technique workshop on Saturday 25th November '17 from 2pm to 4pm with Giorgina Pontet will be a great starting point for learning more about this therapy.

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