Gurfinkel and colleagues (2006) recently found that healthy adults dynamically modulate postural muscle tone in the body axis during anti-gravity postural maintenance and that this modulation is inversely correlated with axial stiffness. Our objective in the present study was to investigate whether dynamic modulation of axial postural tone can change through training. We examined whether teachers of the Alexander Technique (AT), who undergo "long-term" (3-year) training, have greater modulation of axial postural tone than matched control subjects. In addition, we performed a longitudinal study on the effect of "short-term" (10-week) AT training on the axial postural tone of individuals with low back pain (LBP), since short term AT training has previously been shown to reduce LBP. Axial postural tone was quantified by measuring the resistance of the neck, trunk and hips to small (±10°), slow (1°/s) torsional rotation during stance. Modulation of tone was determined by the torsional resistance to rotation (peak-to-peak, phase-advance, and variability of torque) and axial muscle activity (EMG). Peak-to-peak torque was lower (∼50%), while phase-advance and cycle-to-cycle variability were enhanced for AT teachers compared to matched control subjects at all levels of the axis. In addition, LBP subjects decreased trunk and hip stiffness following short-term AT training compared to a control intervention. While changes in static levels of postural tone may have contributed to the reduced stiffness observed with the AT, our results suggest that dynamic modulation of postural tone can be enhanced through long-term training in the AT, which may constitute an important direction for therapeutic intervention.
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