Acupuncture and Alexander Technique help relieve chronic neck pain

Harvard Men's Health Watch

Troubled by long-term neck pain? Acupuncture and the Alexander Technique may offer relief, says a study in the Nov. 3, 2015, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

British researchers recruited 517 patients who suffered from neck pain for an average of six years. They were randomly placed in three groups: one got up to 20 half-hour Alexander Technique lessons, the second had up to a dozen 50-minute sessions of acupuncture, and the third group received standard treatments, such as medications and physical therapy.

Acupuncture uses hair-thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body, which is thought to trigger physiological processes that relieve pain. The Alexander Technique is an educational method that teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscle tension and improve posture and body alignment.

After 12 months, pain declined by 32% for the acupuncture patients and 31% for those who had Alexander lessons. The usual care group reduced their pain by 23%, which is less than the 25% considered clinically relevant, according to the study. "These treatments may be viable options for people with longtime neck pain, or for those who have not responded to conventional treatments," says lead author Dr. Hugh MacPherson of the University of York.