Yoga May Beat the Usual Exercise for Back Pain

A study in a recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that yoga is at least as effective, and maybe more so, than traditional exercise in the treatment of lower back pain.

As reported by the LA Times:

"The study, conducted by researchers from Group Health Cooperative, a nonprofit health care system in Seattle, examined 101 adults, all of whom had experienced mild to moderate lower back pain for at least three months.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatment plans for 12 weeks. The group who attended weekly 75-minute classes of a gentle form of yoga known as viniyoga reported significantly more pain relief than a group receiving a self-help book on relieving back pain. The yoga group also reported slightly more improvement than a group assigned to exercise sessions that included aerobics, strength training and stretching, although that difference was not statistically significant.

The yoga benefits appeared to persist. Fourteen weeks after the final treatment, yoga patients reported a continued downward trend in their pain, whereas the effect leveled off in the case of the self-help set. There was no statistical difference between the yoga group and the conventional exercise group.

Yoga practitioners have long suspected that the ancient exercise is helpful in the treatment of back pain, but up till now there's been little scientific support of the claim. (Funding for the study came from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health that was specifically set up to examine under-studied alternative therapies.)

The yoga improvements could be due to two things: the relaxation that the practice instills, and improved body mechanics -- paying more attention to how one sits, stands and walks, suggests Karen Sherman, the study's first author and a Group Health researcher."

-- Janet Cromley,
Los Angeles Times
"Yoga has your back"
2/21/06 (as reported in