Yoga May Be Best Prescription For Lower Back Pain Relief

Chronic lower back pain is equally likely to improve with yoga classes as with physical therapy, according to a new study. These classes were specifically designed keeping in mind people who suffered from chronic lower back pain. They made three groups in which the first group was asked to practice yoga, the second group to carry out physiotherapy sessions and last one were simply given an educational book and newsletters that involved ways to cope up with back pain. There are a lot of drugs and painkillers to get relief from the back pain but drugs are not always effective and could prove highly addictive.

After the end of the nine-month period, researchers discovered that both the yoga and physical therapy groups had improved pain levels and a large number of them even abstained from consuming pain medication.

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

Saper says he chose to compare the effects of yoga with physical therapy because “PT is the most common referral that physicians make for patients with back pain”.

Chronic low back pain affects around 10 million adults in Britain and is most prevalent in racial or ethnic minorities and in people of lower socioeconomic status. The researchers surmised that the outcome was almost the same for physical therapy and yoga.

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). “Perhaps most importantly reducing pain medication use”. The self-help group members continued to receive support through phone-ins. He says that, because this trial targeted a small demographic, it is hard to pinpoint a larger demographic that would benefit most or least from yoga. Yoga is practiced not only in India but also in other countries that concentrate on physical postures, movements, and controlled breathing.

People would feel a noticeable improvement with a four to five point drop on the RMDQ, write Dr. Douglas Chang, of the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in an accompanying editorial. Another group was assigned 15 physical therapy (PT) visits.

For achieving noticeable differences in pain, physical therapy was again no better or worse than yoga.

When the study began, about 70 percent of the patients were taking some form of pain medication. That difference was 22 percentage points for physical therapy versus education.

“If they remain the same after one year, it’s a good bet that their improvement will continue on”, Saper told Reuters Health.