Treating Common Back Pain With Yoga

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January 10, 2006 | 21,948 views

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.


Not long ago, I ran a story about the use of yoga to tame the damaging effects of serious diseases ranging from AIDS to Crohn"s disease. It"s also beneficial and effective for a more common problem -- chronic low back pain. And one of the best benefits is that yoga reduced reliance on health-harming drugs.

Even though there are plenty of published studies showing the dangers of over-the-counter medications, many are still unaware of the basic facts. Pain medications, even such common ones as aspirin, are dangerous and potentially deadly. Taking over-the-counter painkillers for six months or more can double your chances of dying from a stroke or heart attack.

The best way to avoid drugs and still get relief from your pain is to utilize treatments that address the underlying cause of your symptoms. Seeking professional help is generally a wise choice if you are in chronic pain. 

While chiropractic care can be far more comprehensive than treating simple back pain it can frequently provide quite profound relief for many. There are tens of thousands of well trained chiropractors in the US but a high quality group I know of is one of my good friends, Drs. Patrick Gentempo and Christopher Kent who are national leaders in transforming the conventional medical paradigm.

His group, CLA, has about 1,000 enlightened practitioners who typically provide great care. I am speaking at the Las Vegas Hilton on January 13 to about 3,000 chiropractors at the largest chiropractic convention in the country and hope to work with many to change this fatally flawed paradigm.

Additionally there are simply nutrtitional measures you can take that end up addressing many of these causes at the same time:

  • Start taking a high-quality fish or cod liver oil. Omega-3 fats, which are found in fish or cod liver oil, are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. In fact, that is how Vioxx and other anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.

    UPDATE: I now also highly recommend the excellent marine oil product Krill Oil. Not only does this Krill Oil contain omega-3"s with DHA and EPA, but it also includes protective antioxidants and phospholipids.

  • Eliminate grains and sugars from your daily diet. Sugar and grain avoidance for most people will lower insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels are one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
  • Optimize your intake of vitamin D by getting daily sun exposure. If sun exposure is hard to come by for one reason or another, cod liver oil is an excellent alternative source of vitamin D you can use in the meantime. It"s also extremely important to have your vitamin D levels tested to know where your levels fall before you begin supplementation.
  • Retool your diet based on your body"s unique nutritional type. Nutritional typing (a refinement of nutritional typing) is a tool I have seen work in thousands of patients to reduce their pain.
  • There are also some very effective natural alternatives to anti-inflammatory drugs that can help provide temporary relief for your pain while you are in the process of implementing the above strategies.



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