ATLAS - Neck Pain Trial at the University of York - comparing Alexander Technique, acupuncture & GP care - research results due 2015
A large randomised clinical trial involving 517 participants is investigating how effective Alexander Technique lessons are, compared with acupunture and usual GP care, for people with chronic neck pain. The 3-year trial, which began in October 2011, is being conducted by the University of York and is funded to the tune of £720,000 by Arthritis Research UK.
In this trial, people with chronic neck pain have been randomised to one of three groups:
Alexander Technique lessons from STAT-registered teachers (total time 600 minutes across 20 lessons), with continued GP care
acupuncture sessions (total time 600 minutes across 12 sessions), with continued GP care
continued GP care alone
Pain and disability associated with neck pain will be assessed over 1 year, along with measures of quality of life, participant beliefs and experience, cost effectiveness and safety. The trial is not designed to be a direct comparison of Alexander lessons and acupuncture, rather it will compare each of these with usual GP care. Further details can be found in the published trial protocol 2.
Some patients have taken part in in-depth interviews on their perceptions and experiences of Alexander Technique sessions, acupuncture and usual GP care. The researchers are also exploring patients' preferences, beliefs and understanding of their neck pain and the impact these factors might have on their experience of treatment and the subsequent outcome.
The results will provide robust evidence on whether there are: significant worthwhile benefits to patients; economic benefits demonstrating value for money; and sufficient levels of acceptability and safety.
Chronic neck pain is a common condition in the adult population. As well as being painful and disabling, it is associated with significant costs to the individual, their families, the NHS and society in general. As the optimal care for chronic neck pain has not yet been established and with patients commonly self referring for acupuncture and Alexander Technique sessions as treatment options, more research on the effectiveness of these interventions is needed.