Yoga Relieves Chronic Back Pain

(Health Secrets) Yoga is an effective treatment for chronic back pain according to a recent study in the UK. While other studies have shown that keeping active is more effective at treating back pain than laying still, this is the first study to look at the specific benefits of yoga on this condition.

Chronic back pain is one of the most common complaints among adults, and around 80% of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives. It is often described as ‘non specific’ lower back pain as it has no obvious cause such as an illness or injury, but it can be debilitating and expensive to treat, and can have a huge impact on our quality of life.

What did the study show?

The study was undertaken by the Universities of Manchester and York in the UK, and was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It involved 313 participants, mainly women with an average age of 46, who all suffered from chronic back pain but did not have other underlying health conditions, and who had not practiced yoga in the previous six months.

All the participants completed a Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) which determined the extent of the disability they were experiencing from their back pain. The questionnaire assesses everyday tasks such as walking, bending down, and getting dressed, to see how easily the participants can perform these. The questionnaire results in a score between 0 and 24, the higher the score the higher the degree of disability.

The participants were divided into two groups. 156 of them were enrolled in a yoga program which was led by twenty specially trained yoga instructors and involved a gradually progressive twelve week course which was designed to be safe for people with back pain. They continued to be treated by their doctor during this time.

The second group of 157 were only treated by their doctor, who would have initially recommended generally staying active and using painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, perhaps moving onto physical therapy or other treatments later if the pain did not improve.

At the start of the study, both groups had a mean average RMDQ score of 7.8. After three months the questionnaire was repeated and the mean average RMDQ score for the yoga group was 2.17 points lower than the mean average RMDQ score for the group that were just treated by their doctor, showing that the extent of their disability had been significantly reduced compared to the group that had not taken yoga classes.

The benefits of yoga

As the results of the above study show, many of us could benefit from a weekly yoga session. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental well being. It combines postures, or movements designed to increase strength and flexibility, and breathing exercises.

Some of the benefits of yoga include:

  • Reducing high blood pressure which can lower the risk of heart disease
  • Alleviating stress and depression through relaxation techniques
  • Increasing strength and balance to reduce the risk of falls and injuries
  • Easing the symptoms of arthritis by increasing mobility and reducing pain
  • Relieving aches and pains, specifically lower back pain

Yoga can be started at any age, and there are a variety of types of yoga so there is bound to be a class to suit your level of physical fitness and health. While there are yoga DVDs available for home use, it is advisable to take a class initially, as the instructor will be able to guide you and make sure you are doing the movements in a way that will yield maximum benefits for you.

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