Research by Tekur and colleagues of
SVYASA Institute in India suggests yoga
may be more effective at improving pain, anxiety, and depression in
chronic low-back pain patients than exercise. In other
low back pain news, a recent study by UK researchers Chuang et al.
interventions to be cost-effective in treating chronic or recurrent
low back pain compared to usual care.
The SVYASA study randomly assigned 80
patients (37 female, 43 male) with chronic low-back pain to either a
seven day yoga or physical exercise program. The yoga was comprised
of pranayamas and asanas specifically for low back pain, meditation,
yogic counseling, and lectures on yoga philosophy. The physical
exercise control group included physical therapy exercises for back
pain and matching counseling and education sessions.
Yoga participants showed a 49% decrease
in self-reported pain, while control (physical exercise) participants
reported 17.5% decrease in pain. Both groups experienced reduced
depression and improved spinal mobility (although the yoga group had
a considerably larger improvement than did the physical exercise
group), while the yoga group alone showed improvements in anxiety.
This study is noteworthy for its
rigorous design. Because the yoga intervention included yoga
exercises as well as yogic counseling and lectures, they ensured that
the control group also received a similar level of group interaction
to control for the extra benefits lectures and education provide.
This is the first study to suggest yoga is more beneficial in
treating low back pain than physical therapy, although Robert Saper
and colleagues at Boston Medical Center are currently
conducting a randomized controlled trial investigating
a similar hypothesis.
Several studies have shown yoga to be
effective than standard of care for low-back pain treatment,
although research findings have been conflicting as to whether yoga
offers added benefit over stretching.
One major question asked by researchers
and policy makers is: Not only does yoga work in promoting relief
from low back pain, but is it cost-effective compared to conventional
treatments (physical therapy)? Chuang and colleagues’ research
suggests specialized yoga plus usual care is indeed cost effective.
The researchers analyzed data from participants in a study given
twelve weeks of yoga plus usual care. Related costs were compared to
usual care costs over a twelve-month period. Yoga was found to be
between 72 and 95% cost effective, depending on the criteria used.
Research studies typically design
special programs and poses targeted to low back pain sufferers,
although in the real world, a patient’s doctor may simply recommend
community yoga participation, which may be less safe and therapeutic.
has some helpful information on which yoga poses may
be more beneficial and therapeutic for different types of low back
How has yoga helped your back