Yoga May Be Best Prescription For Lower Back Pain Relief

A new study reveals that yoga may be an effective alternative to pain medications and physical therapy for individuals suffering from chronic low back pain. The course is not strenuous, focusing on gentle poses and relaxation techniques.

Who was in the study?

The researchers found that the yoga course was just as good for the participants' backs as physical therapy.

After the 12-week period was complete, both physical therapy and yoga group members regularly practiced these at home and also attended occasional sessions for the 40-week maintenance phase.

What did participants in the study do?

With all those different positions and contortions, some might think yoga would aggravate back pain, which is an issue for millions of Americans. After 12 weeks, people in the yoga group were 21 percentage points less likely to use pain medications than those in the education group. Another group was assigned 15 physical therapy (PT) visits. The self-help group members continued to receive support through phone-ins. "Both yoga and physical therapy are excellent non-drug approaches for low back pain", said lead author Dr. Robert Saper, of Boston Medical Center. The effects of pain medication were monitored throughout the course of the study. Some took yoga classes designed for back pain once a week. Since yoga is particularly effective in reducing pain intensity and strengthening the core muscles required to combat back ache, it can become a crucial tool in reducing the rising dependence on pain relief medicine.

Now a new study from Boston Medical Center backs that up.

"I'm not recommending that people just go to any yoga class", Saper told us.

Enlisting the help of yoga instructors, doctors and physical therapists, researchers at the Boston Medical Center developed a yoga course specifically created to alleviate lower back pain. "It's accepted, it's reimbursed, and it's offered in most hospitals". That's not saying yoga is better than PT (the exact word the study used in comparing yoga to physical therapy is "nonferior") or that you should skip your weekly tune-up-but don't be surprised if your therapist starts having you incorporate downward-facing dogs into your routine.

People would feel a noticeable improvement with a four- to five-point drop on the RMDQ, wrote Dr. Douglas Chang, of the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in an accompanying editorial. The study looked at 79 adults and found that the runners in the group had the strongest spines, The New York Times reports.

Vanessa Coleman