Practicing yoga cuts lower back pain by half

Practicing the ancient Indian art of yoga is better at reducing chronic lower back pain than conventional medicinal treatments. This is the conclusion reached by a three-year study on 90 people funded by the US National Institutes of Health.

Dr Kimberly Williams, research assistant professor in the Department of Community Medicine at West Virginia University in Morgantown, and colleagues conducted this study, which received funds of nearly $400,000.

All participants in the study had chronic lower back pain and complained of mild to moderate functional disability. The researchers randomly assigned the patients to receive either yoga instruction through Iyengar certified instructors or conventional medical therapy.

The yoga group was given classes for 90 minutes two times a week for at least 24 weeks. The researchers followed up on the participants for six months after the yoga or medical therapy was completed.

The researchers report in the September issue of Spine that :

* Significantly greater reductions in functional disability and pain intensity were observed in the yoga group compared to the group that received medical therapy

* The yoga group reported greater betterment in mood compared to the medical group

* Pain reduction was also greater in the yoga group as compared to the other group.

“Yoga improves functional disability, pain intensity, and depression in adults with CLBP [chronic low-back pain],” write Williams and colleagues. “There was also a clinically important trend for the yoga group to reduce their pain medication usage compared to the control group.”

Yoga is an ancient Indian art that uses breathing in and out during various asanas or postures to balance various elements in the body. Consumers may take up Yoga to relax improve circulation, reduce stress and boost the immune system by virtue of its detoxifying effect.

Iyengar yoga is the most popular form of the discipline having 2,000 plus qualified teachers in over 40 countries. It is based on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who was an ancient sage in India.

Yoga can be practiced by almost anybody and is seen as especially useful to people who suffer from chronic lower back pain, which affects 70 percent to 85 percent of the population at one or the other time in their lives and costs $34 billion in direct medical costs annually.

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