Back pain relief from yoga

1 November 2011

Yoga is effective in reducing symptoms due to low back pain and improving function, with the benefits lasting several months, trial results show (Archives of Internal Medicine 2011, online 24 Oct).

The study is the largest US trial to compare outcomes among people allocated at random to yoga or another treatment. It involved 228 adults with moderate back pain and good mental and other health.

The back-pain sufferers either went to 75-minute yoga classes every week for 12 weeks or a similar program of conventional stretching classes, or received a comprehensive self-care book, The back pain helpbook.

Yoga was found to be more effective than the self-care book, but no more effective than stretching classes, the researchers found.

Twice as many people in the yoga and stretching groups reported decreasing their medicine use at the 12-week and 26-week follow-up interviews compared with the self-care group.

Researchers concluded that physical activity involving stretching, regardless of whether it involves yoga or more conventional activities, has moderate benefits in individuals with moderate back pain, with the benefits of yoga largely explained by the physical benefits of stretching and strengthening the muscles.

"Our results suggest both yoga and stretching can be good, safe options for people who are willing to try physical activity to relieve their moderate low back pain," said lead researcher Dr Karen Sherman from the Group Health Research Institute, Seattle.

"But it’s important for the classes to be therapeutically [treatment] oriented, geared for beginners, and taught by instructors who can modify postures for participants' individual physical limitations."

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