Researchers Recommend Yoga to Help Low Back Pain

A recently published comprehensive review and statistical analysis of all studies available up to 2012 on the use of yoga for low back pain is recommending the use of yoga as a complementary therapy to help lower back pain. The review found no evidence that yoga was associated with adverse health events, strong evidence for short-term benefits, and moderate evidence for long-term benefits on patients with chronic back pain.

Conducted in Germany at the University of Duisburg-Essen, researchers used searches of several medical research libraries, which store evidence for medical interventions, and collected all the trials of yoga for chronic low back pain, including both randomized and used control groups. In medical research, the randomized controlled trial (RTC) is commonly considered the most reliable. RTC trials randomly divide the participants into two groups, use only the treatment(s) being studied, and treat both groups exactly the same—except for giving treatment to one group and not the other.

For the analysis, researchers included 10 randomized controlled trials with a total of 967 patients. Of the 10 trials, 8 of them had a low risk of bias. The trials measured pain, back-specific disability, generic disability, health-related quality of life, and overall improvement.

The findings are important for yoga practitioners, as they show that the growing body of scientific evidence on yoga as a treatment modality is reaching a level that doctors, nurses insurance companies, and patients can trust. Yoga for low back pain is not yet as ubiquitous a treatment as aspirin, but we can imagine a world in the not-too-distant-future when it will be.

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Yoga for Low Back Pain, Cramer H, et al. Department of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.

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