A new study has unearthed an ancient relaxation technique that may successfully treat chronic back pain. Christened the 'Alexander' technique, it involves an exercise programme with a personalized approach to deal effectively with the medical condition.
The technique, which is more than 100 years old, helps patients develop lifelong skills for self care to improve postural tone and muscular coordination.
It is an educational technique taught to be practiced by patients on their own and is not a form of exercise.
The research team from the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol recruited 579 patients with chronic or recurrent back pain from 64 general practices in the south and west of England.
Patients were randomized assigned to receive normal care, massage, six Alexander technique lessons, or 24 Alexander technique lessons.
Half of the patients from each of the groups were also prescribed an exercise programme (brisk walking for 30 minutes per day five times a week).
Previous studies have shown that Alexander technique along with massage relieves back pain for a brief time.
After one year, Paul Little and his team found that exercise combined with lessons in the Alexander technique significantly reduced pain and improved functioning whereas massage offered little benefit after three months.
The patients receiving Alexander technique lessons reported fewer days with back pain over the past four weeks, while patients receiving normal care reported 21 days of back pain.
Those who received 24 lessons of Alexander technique experienced 18 fewer days of pain and those who had six lessons reported 10 fewer days of pain and those having massage said they had seven fewer days of pain.
"Massage is helpful in the short term...[but] the Alexander technique retained effectiveness at one year...the results should apply to most patients with chronic or recurrent back pain," the British Medical Journal quoted researchers, as saying.
Moreover patients receiving Alexander technique lessons reported improved quality of life.
Six one-to-one lessons in the Alexander technique followed by exercise had 72 percent benefit 24 lessons in the Alexander technique alone.
The study is published in British Medical Journal.