A study of more than 100 adults with chronic lower back pain looked at the relative benefits of yoga, conventional therapeutic exercise, and the instructions from a popular back pain book.
Those who took weekly yoga classes for 12 weeks experienced the greatest decrease in the need for pain medication, and the biggest increase in function.
Viniyoga, Physical Therapy, and The Back Pain Handbook
The study participants were between 20 and 64 years of age, mostly women in their 40s, and suffered from chronic back pain. One group took classes in viniyoga, an easy to learn style of yoga that emphasizes safety.
The second group attended therapeutic exercise classes taught by a physical therapist. The third group was instructed to read a copy of The Back Pain Helpbook.
78 Percent Improved
78 percent of the group taking yoga classes improved by at least two points on the Roland Disability Scale, which assesses how easily people can perform daily. 63 percent who took the exercise class experienced an improvement of at least a two points, as did 47 percent of those who read the book.
Use of Pain Medication Dropped by Almost Two-Thirds
In addition, by the end of the study, only 21 percent in the yoga class were taking pain medication, down from close to 60 percent at the start. Use of pain medication in the exercise group dropped to some extent, but the number of those who read the book using pain medication increased from 50 percent to 59 percent.
Yoga may be effective in helping with back pain by making people more aware of how they move their bodies. However, a larger study may be needed before yoga can be said to be better than other therapies for this purpose.