Yoga can help ease back pain

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Yoga can be as effective as physical therapy in treating your lower back pain, says a new study published in a major medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine. The research manifests yoga as a potential therapy to ease out back pain. While the discipline has its fans in the medical community and all across the world, evidence for its effectiveness is sparse, as per the skeptics.

Researchers recruited 320 racially-diverse, predominantly low-income participants who were suffering from chronic low back pain, in the Boston area. The study lasted one year.

All the participants were then divided into three groups. One group was assigned to a weekly yoga class for 12 weeks. Another group was assigned 15 physical therapy (PT) visits. The third group received an educational book and newsletters. Researchers assessed changes in pain and function using a 23-point questionnaire. The participants in the yoga and physical therapy groups had about the same amount of improvement in pain and functioning over time.

When the study began, about 70 percent of the patients were taking some form of pain medication. At the end of three months, when the yoga classes were wrapping up, the percentage of yoga and PT participants still taking pain medication had dropped to about 50 percent.

“In light of the complex factors affecting both diagnosis and outcomes in chronic [lower back pain], any single treatment is unlikely to prove helpful to all or even most patients,” said an accompanying editorial written by University of California, San Diego doctor and researcher Douglas G. Chang, and Stefan G. Kertesz, a doctor and researcher with Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Alabama.

“Nevertheless,” they wrote, “as Saper and colleagues have shown, yoga offers some persons tangible benefit without much risk.”

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Neha Katoch

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