August 2017

Yoga May Help Treat Back Pain

Yoga class at health club

A carefully adapted set of yoga poses, practiced under the guidance of a well-trained instructor, may help reduce chronic low back pain and improve function.
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Many people experience low-back pain over their lifetime. For those who don’t recover quickly, the discomfort can become chronic, lasting for months or even years.

NIH-funded researchers have been looking for new ways to treat long-lasting low-back pain. A new study shows that yoga may help relieve moderate to severe low-back pain. The research team recruited 320 people with chronic low-back pain from diverse backgrounds and underserved communities. More than half of the study’s participants were non-Hispanic black and earned less than $30,000 per year.

The participants were randomly assigned to three groups. The first group took 12 weekly yoga classes designed for people with low-back pain. The second group had 15 physical therapy sessions over 12 weeks. These included exercises to strengthen back and core muscles. The third group received a self-help book and newsletters to learn how to deal with back pain.

The results suggested that a structured yoga class may be an option for treating chronic low-back pain. All three groups reported improvement in physical function and pain reduction. However, people in the yoga and physical therapy treatment groups were more likely than those in the education-only group to stop taking pain relievers after a year.

“Chronic low-back pain disproportionately impacts those who are economically disadvantaged,” says research team leader Dr. Robert Saper of the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center. “Therefore, we feel that it was important to test whether the yoga would be received well by an underserved population as well as being effective.” 

 

Reference: Yoga, Physical Therapy, or Education for Chronic Low Back Pain. Saper RB, Lemaster C., Delitto A, Sherman KJ, Herman PM, Sadikova E, Stevans J, Keosaian JE, Cerrada CJ, Femia AL, Roseen EJ, Gardiner P, Gergen Barnett K, Faulkner C, and Weinberg J. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Jun 20. doi: 10.7326/P17-9039. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 28631006.

Funding: NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).