Yoga Can Be Helpful in Reducing Chronic Pain and Depression – Including Online Yoga Classes Studies Show

A growing body of research has shown that yoga and meditation can benefit patients with chronic pain and depression. Does this transfer to online yoga? According to one study, that appears to be the case.

The Challenges of Living with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a common and serious medical condition affecting an estimated 100 million people in the United States, which correlates with annual costs of approximately $635 billion.

“Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve,” says Cynthia Marske, DO, an osteopathic physician and director of graduate medical education at the Community Health Clinics of Benton and Linn County. “However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing.”

Healing and curing are inherently different, explains Dr. Marske.

“Curing means eliminating disease, while healing refers to becoming more whole,” Dr. Marske says. “With chronic pain, healing involves learning to live with a level of pain this is manageable. For this, yoga and meditation can be very beneficial.”

The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Improving the Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Dr. Marske is co-author of a study that found that a program of meditation and yoga led to significant improvements in patients’ perceptions of pain, depression, and disability. Following the course, Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores, a standard measure of depression, dropped by 3.7 points on a 27-point scale. According to Dr. Marske, some patients experience a similar drop from the use of an antidepressant.

“Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression,” says Dr. Marske. “Mindfulness-based meditation and yoga can help restore both a patient’s mental and physical health and can be effective alone or in combination with other treatments such as therapy and medication.”

Study participants received instruction in a systematic educational program including mindfulness and yoga, based on training people to have an awareness of the self in the present moment and a nonjudgmental manner. The findings bolstered other evidence that yoga and meditation can be a useful adjunctive treatment for chronic pain while improving perceived depression.

“The bottom line is that patients are seeking new ways to cope with chronic pain, and effective non-pharmaceutical treatments are available,” says Dr. Marske. “Our findings show meditation and yoga can be a viable option for people seeking relief from chronic pain.”

The study echoes previous findings on the benefits of yoga and meditation for chronic pain published in 2016 in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Online Yoga Can Help Reduce Chronic Low Back Pain, Study Finds

With the growing popularity of online yoga, many of the barriers to practice are falling away, and it becomes easier to reach a wider range of people. But is online yoga as effective as in-person classes for chronic pain? According to a recent study published in The Journal of Orthopedic Research, this appears to be the case.

This study aimed to evaluate the impact of yoga asanas in people with chronic low back pain. Participants underwent an eight-session yoga asanas program, with the first session conducted in-clinic and the rest delivered online with a tele-approach. The findings suggested that tele-yoga asana might have a positive impact on both pain intensity as well as other measures of chronic low back pain.

Source: Materials provided by the American Osteopathic Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference: Cynthia Marske, Samantha Shah, Aaron Chavira, Caleb Hedberg, Raelin Fullmer, Christopher James Clark, Olivia Pipitone, Paulina Kaiser. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in the Management of Chronic Pain and Its Comorbid Depression. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2020; 120 (9): 575 DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2020.096

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