Study Concludes that Yoga May Help People with Lower Back Pain

Although the practice of yoga has often been touted for the mental health benefits it offers, over the past several years, more and more people have also discovered the physical benefits that can be had. A recent study offers more good news – yoga may actually help with lower back pain.

Lower back pain is prevalent in this country with approximately 80 percent of the population dealing with back pain at some point in their lives. This back pain often affects the sufferer’s quality of life, hampering their abilities to exercise or even do the everyday tasks that we often take for granted.

To compound the issue, back pain can also affect a person’s sleep, leaving them unable to get a good night’s rest, which is essential for healthy living. And finding a treatment plan to alleviate lower back pain can be almost impossible.

However, a recent study concluded that practicing yoga may offer just the relief that back pain sufferers seek. It was conducted by researchers from researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), the University of Portsmouth in the UK, and the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany.

The study, which was published in Cochrane Library, examined the data from a dozen separate studies which focused on using yoga to treat lower back pain. There were over 1,000 people who had participated in these studies.

Each study compared results when subjects were given either a non-exercise intervention (such as educational materials with information to help alleviate pain), given an exercise intervention (such as physical therapy), or participated in yoga intervention.

The results showed that, after three and six months, the subjects who participated in yoga showed a little to moderate improvements in both pain and function. The study determined that there was not enough evidence in the studies to determine what, if any, difference there was between the functionality percentages between yoga and exercise intervention methods.

Originating in India over 2,000 years ago, yoga combines mental, physical, and spiritual practices. Practitioners of yoga incorporate controlled breathing, meditation, relaxation, and physical movements. There are currently more than a dozen forms of yoga. The three forms that were used in the trials for this study included Hatha, Iyengar, and Viniyoga.

In many research projects, participants are often not cognizant of which group of a study they are in. For example, in studies involving medications, one group may be  given the actual medication being studied and another group given a placebo. Participants have no idea which group they are in.

In this study, however, participants were obviously aware of which group they were in and it was necessary for researchers to incorporate that in the grading of outcomes. This is why even the “best” result could only be graded as “moderate.”

Spine surgeon Dr. Victor Hayes felt the study offers encouraging news for lower back pain sufferers and commented, “Any treatment which can offer a natural, healthy way to help alleviate a client’s pain and hopefully reduce the need for medication and/or surgery is always welcomed news.”

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