New study shows promise of yoga in treating back pain

Yoga might be as good as physical therapy for lower back pain, says study

Chronic lower back pain is equally likely to improve with yoga classes as with physical therapy, according to a new study.

Kertesz was invited by Douglas Chang, M.D., University of California San Diego chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service and professor of orthopedic surgery, who previously reviewed the literature on yoga for low back pain.

Researchers say based on this study, they hope more doctors will recommend yoga to treat chronic back pain but they caution it won't work for everyone and you should always check with your doctor first. "Yoga makes me think about my back and how I'm standing and if I'm standing properly, then I can function better".

The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups.

"Yoga was as effective as physical therapy for reducing pain intensity", Saper said.

"It's a significant reduction", says study author Rob Saper, Director of Integrative Medicine at Boston Medical Center.

"One reason is that many people simply can't attend all the yoga classes, and the trial showed that adherence to the yoga or the physical therapy proved hard for many".

Almost 10 percent Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain and according to the NIH, almost 80 percent adults experience it at some juncture. Another took part in a physical therapy program over the same amount of time.

"When you're in severe pain..."

To track participants function and pain during the study, the researchers surveyed them at six, 12, 26, 40 and 52 weeks using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ). By comparison, the use of pain medication did not decline among participants in the education group. The yoga protocol includes gentle poses and avoids more hard ones. He says often the care has to involve physical interventions like yoga, plus medication, educational support and mental health care.

The third set of participants - the control group - did not have any physical therapy or yoga sessions, but were instead given self-help books and newsletters to read and follow. Studies have revealed that practicing yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for four years helps people avoid weight gain and stay in tune with their bodies. After 12 weeks, people in the yoga group were 21 percentage points less likely to used pain medications than those in the education group.

Saper says if research shows that yoga can be as effective, "maybe yoga should be considered as a potential therapy that can be more widely disseminated and covered [by insurance]".

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