Yoga Proven to Reduce Low Back Pain

Weekly yoga and regular stretching classes have been shown to ease pain and improve functioning in people with chronic low back ailments, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A total of 228 adults with lower back pain participated in the study, and either attended 12 weekly yoga classes, did stretching exercises or read a book that provided information on exercise and other ways to relieve back pain, according to Reuters report.

The results showed participants in both classes reported more improvement in symptoms after three months, including pain that interferes with their daily activities, than patients who were only given the book.

The questionnaire filled out by participants rated daily “disability” level on a scale of zero to 23, with 23 being the most severe, and the exercise groups dropped from an initial average score of 10 in the yoga group or nine in the stretching group to between four and five in both groups, Reuters reported.

The people who received the book started with an average score of nine and at 12 weeks had dropped to about a seven.

“Here is an option that is worth trying,” Karen Sherman from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study told

Additionally, 60 percent of those in the yoga group reported improvements in pain compared to 46 percent in the stretching classes and only 16 percent for those with the books. Three months after the end of classes, symptom improvements were similar in people who had done either stretching or yoga, and were better than in the non-exercise group.

“I think it adds another piece of evidence that exercise is valuable for people with chronic back problems,” Dr. Richard Deyo, a study co-author and professor of family medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland said in an ABC News report. “It suggests yoga is a good option, but not necessarily the only one.”

The ABC News report also cited a 2009 study in the journal Spine that found benefits associated with yoga in people with chronic low back pain. In this case, participants took six months of classes in Iyengar yoga, which uses belts and blocks to place the body in proper alignment, and “experienced significantly less pain, fewer depressive symptoms and less functional disability compared to study participants who used other types of therapies,” the report stated. Also, those who took yoga classes used less medication.

As long as yoga classes are geared toward this type of stretching and strengthening and the exercises can be modified if people experience pain, Deyo said in the report.