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Alexander Technique trial

The main inputs to postural stability are from the somatosensory (chiefly proprioception), vestibular and visual systems.  Nerve conduction speed and central nervous system integration slows with age, forcing older adults to rely less on proprioception and more on visual input, especially for dynamic balance control.

Man getting on bus

For older adults with vision impairments this pushes them to the edge of their ability to maintain their balance under challenging conditions.  People with vision impairments are at increased risk of falls.  A trial of older people with significant vision impairments found that a home safety program successfully reduced falls but exercise intervention, which had been shown to benefit the general population, did not.

The Alexander Technique uses everyday movements to re-educate an individual‘s ability to balance effectively in activity.  Researchers from the George Institute, in collaboration with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, are conducting a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the Alexander Technique.Participants will be assessed at baseline, 3 months and 12 months by assessors masked to participant status.

Balance and mobility impairments are key risk factors for falls and if this study shows an effect on balance and mobility, future studies could assess the effect of the Alexander Technique on the rate of falls.

In 2006/07, it was estimated that over 251,000 individuals aged 65 years or older (or 27% of the older NSW population) fell at least once.  In total, there were an estimated 507,000 falls and, of these, almost 143,000 (28%) resulted in injuries requiring some form of medical treatment (NSW Health).

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