Yoga for Back Pain: 5 Studies

Back pain is a serious and common ailment, especially in those over 40. Sports and household injuries, fractures, herniated disks, bad posture and, of course, sedentary lifestyle… the causes may be different but the main problem is that back pain is resistant to treatment and can often be recurrent or chronic. The vertebral column is a critical component of our body and requires close attention.

boston-medical-center2A recent study reconfirmed the effectiveness of yoga in relieving back pain. The study involved 320 adult patients from Boston suffering from chronic moderate to severe back pain (scale score: 7 out of 10). Seventy-five percent of them took analgesics and 20% received analgesics containing opioids. The study was performed at Boston Medical Center under the leadership of Robert B. Saper, MD and its results were presented at Academy of Pain Management 2016 Annual Meeting.

To ensure the experiment’s integrity, all participants were divided into three groups: the first group practiced yoga, the second group received traditional Physical Therapy and the third group used educational programs. The “yogis” practiced 1.5 h weekly for 12 weeks, the Physical Therapy group received 15 1-hour sessions, and the third group studied specialized materials on the problem. Then, all of the patients were followed-up for 52 weeks and the results were analyzed. Eventually, the yoga demonstrated outstanding efficacy: 48% of the subjects in this group reported 30% pain relief (37% and 23%, for the other two groups, respectively).

Some previous studies

“Effectiveness of Iyengar yoga in treating spinal (back and neck) pain: A systematic review”, 2015
Edith Meszaros Crow, Emilien Jeannot, and Alison Trewhela
Institute of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland

university-of-geneva2 Swiss scientists performed a qualitative review of six studies involving a total of 570 subjects. Conclusion: Iyengar yoga is an effective means for the relief of pain syndrome and function improvement.

“A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain”, 2013
Cramer H, Lauche R, Haller H, Dobos G
University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

university-duisburg-essen2 German scientists performed 10 simultaneous studies involving 967 patients. The studies yielded convincing evidence of the short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence of the long-term effectiveness of yoga in relieving lumbar pain.

“Yoga for chronic low back pain: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”, 2013
Susan Holtzman, PhD and R Thomas Beggs, MA
University of British Columbia, Canada

university-british-columiaA meta-analysis of eight studies performed by Canadian specialists demonstrated the high level of effectiveness of yoga-therapy in patients with back pain. It also included an assessment of pain and functional characteristics (5 and 8 assessment criteria, respectively). Number of patients: 743. Results: D=0.645 (functionality) and D=0.623 (pain). D is the effect estimation by Coen’s method, which is generally accepted in such statistical studies. In simplified form, D=0.2 is small effect size, D=0.5 is medium effect size and D=0.8 means large effect size.

“Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial”, 2011
Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, Kang’ombe AR, Chuang LH, Jayakody S, Aplin JD, Semlyen A, Trewhela A, Watt I, Torgerson DJ.
University of York, Heslington, United Kingdom

university-of-york2 British scientists examined 313 patients suffering from chronic and recurrent lumbar pain. The participants were divided into two groups, one of which used a standard program of physical exercises while the second group practiced yoga. The duration was 12 weeks. The results in respect of pain relief and improved function of the lumbar spine were better in the yoga group than in the second group.

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