Study: Yoga Relieves Back Pain

Do you dread bending over to tie your shoelaces? How about picking up a pencil that dropped to the floor? If back pain is turning every-day tasks into painful chores, you might want to follow in the footsteps of thousands of Americans, who are turning to yoga for back pain.

According to a study published in the highly respected Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga for back pain may be just what the doctor ordered-and if not now, certainly in the future as more information becomes available about the benefits of yoga for back pain. In the 12 week study, Dr. Karen Sherman and her colleagues at the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle compared the effectiveness of yoga for back pain vs. physical therapy exercises, and a self-care book with exercises targeting chronic lower back pain.

The 101 adults in the randomized, controlled clinical trial were separated into three groups: the first attended weekly yoga for back pain classes with daily at-home yoga practice. The second attended a program of back pain exercises developed by a physical therapist, also once a week with daily home practice. The third group received The Back Pain Helpbook, an evidence-based book emphasizing self-care strategies for back pain.

By the end of the 12 weeks, it was clear that yoga for back pain not only helped reduce the pain, but it did so more effectively than either the book or the back pain exercises. In fact, those in the back pain yoga group experienced more than double the improvement than those in the other groups.

Moreover, a three month follow-up revealed that the back pain yoga group continued to enjoy far better results than the groups who had practiced back pain exercises or read the book.

So why might yoga for back pain be more effective than other treatments? The authors of the study points to the holistic mind-body approach of yoga as a possible explanation for it’s superior efficacy. Further, participants in the study of yoga for back pain reported that the mental focus and relaxation induced by yoga helped relax tense muscles and relieve stress, both factors in exacerbating chronic back pain.   

(Source: Comparing Yoga, Exercise, and a Self-Care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain, Sherman, 2005)

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