Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain

Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Centre, USA have found structured yoga programme may be a reasonable alternative to physical therapy for people with chronic low back pain.


The study whether yoga helps alleviate pain and improve movement for people from underserved communities was conducted by a team led by Dr. Robert Saper from Boston University School of Medicine. The researchers carried out a non-inferiority trial with 320 predominantly low-income, racially diverse adults with moderate to severe chronic low back pain. It was designed to assess whether a new treatment (yoga) is as effective as a current treatment (physical therapy).

The participants were randomly divided into three treatment groups. One group received 12 weekly yoga classes designed specifically for people with chronic back pain; one received 15 physical therapy visits over 12 weeks; and one was given an educational book and newsletters about self-care for chronic low back pain.

The researchers then continued to track the participants for an additional 40-week maintenance phase. During this phase, people in the yoga and physical therapy groups were randomly assigned to either continue to practice at home or with a professional—at yoga classes or physical therapy sessions.

The researchers found all three groups reported improvement in physical function and pain reduction. However, people in the yoga and physical therapy treatment groups were significantly more likely to stop taking pain relievers after one year than those in the education-only group. These findings suggest a structured yoga programme may be a reasonable alternative to physical therapy for people with chronic low back pain.

"There are now a number of studies, including ours, that show that yoga is effective for chronic low back pain, but until ours those studies included mostly white and middle-class individuals," Saper explains. "Chronic low back pain disproportionately impacts those who are economically disadvantaged. Therefore, we feel that it was important to test whether the yoga would be received well by an underserved population as well as being effective."

Low back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp sensation that leaves you incapacitated. The pain can begin abruptly as a result of an accident or lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time due to age-related changes of the spine. For many people, low back pain persists longer than 3 months (chronic pain). For about 20%, chronic low back pain persists for more than one year.

Yoga stems from ancient Indian philosophy. As practiced today, it typically combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Most studies of yoga have been done with people from middle-class, white backgrounds. However, people who are from economically disadvantaged communities are disproportionally affected by chronic low back pain.

The result of the study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study was funded by National Institute of Health's National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Source: National Institute of Health, USA
Image courtesy: National Institute of Health, USA


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