The use of either the Alexander Technique or acupuncture can significantly relieve chronic neck pain, according to study results published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Neck pain is a leading cause of disability globally, and management of chronic neck pain is complex,” wrote Hugh MacPherson, BSc, PhD, Senior Research Fellow at the University of York, and colleagues.

The researchers surveyed 517 patient participants in the Alexander Technique Lessons and Acupuncture Sessions (ATLAS) trial. The study authors found that when combined with traditional pain management care, the use of either intervention significantly reduced pain and associated disability during a 12-month period.

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Participants recruited in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, and York, United Kingdom, were randomly sorted into 3 groups. The first group took part in 20 half-hour lessons with instructors from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, and the second group took part in twelve 50-minute acupuncture sessions with practitioners of the British Acupuncture Council. Each group received a total of 600 minutes of alternative therapy in addition to their usual care. The third group received only their usual care.

At 12 months, participants in the acupuncture group showed a 32% pain reduction, while participants in the Alexander Technique group showed a 31% pain reduction. Additional data showed that patients in these two groups were ultimately better able to cope with or reduce their pain levels without resorting to the use of medication.

Dr. MacPherson and colleagues noted that both interventions are more suited to patients who are motivated to engage in self-care. ATLAS trial results are consistent with findings from previous studies showing that patient empowerment typically leads to more favorable outcomes.

“There are significant reductions in neck pain associated with Alexander Technique lessons and acupuncture at 12 months,” wrote Dr. MacPherson. “For the first time, we now have clear evidence that these 2 interventions provide longer-term benefits for chronic neck pain.”


  1. MacPherson H, Tilbrook H, Richmond S, et al. Alexander technique lessons or acupuncture sessions for persons with chronic neck pain: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2015; doi: 10.7326/M15-0667