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A new study at the University of York has shown that use of the Alexander technique or acupuncture can significantly relieve chronic neck pain. What´s more, the two complementary treatments offer long-term benefits.

Researchers recruited 517 patients and put them in three groups as part of a randomised controlled trial. One group was offered up to 20 half-hour lessons with teachers from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, plus usual medical care; another group received up to 12 50-minute sessions of acupuncture based on traditional Chinese medical theory with practitioners of the British Acupuncture Council plus usual care; and the third and final group received usual care alone.

The interventions were delivered within the first four to five months, while the usual care in all three groups included prescribed medications and visits to GPs, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals over the full 12 months of the trial.

Results at 12 months showed that pain was reduced by 32% for those receiving acupuncture and 31% for those who took Alexander technique lessons. When compared with usual care alone, the reductions were found to be statistically significant. Moreover, patients in these two groups were better able to cope or reduce their pain levels without resorting to medication, the university reported.

Publishing their findings in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the research team concluded that both interventions reduced neck pain and associated disability over a 12-month period when compared with usual care alone.

Dr. Hugh MacPherson, a senior research fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at York, said: “Our key finding is that there are significant reductions in neck pain associated with Alexander technique lessons and acupuncture at 12 months. This is an important finding because for the first time we now have clear evidence that these two interventions provide longer-term benefits for chronic neck pain.”