A new study finds that yoga, the ancient Indian practice of physical and spiritual exercise, is as beneficial for back pain as conventionally administered physical therapy. While practitioners of yoga may not be surprised by the results, the study represents another step in the growing acknowledgment of the benefit of several ancient practices and possible large-scale change in the healthcare sector.
Many participants in the study noted how yoga helped them become more comfortable with movement in general, rather than how it treated their back pain in particular. The deliberation required in the practice of yoga can thus be said to be the most effective ingredient of its therapeutic use.
How was the study structured?
320 adults with moderate to severe back pain participated in the study. The participants were divided into three groups, with each group receiving either weekly yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, or information on coping with back pain. Unsurprisingly, both physical therapy and yoga classes proved to be about 20% more effective than information on coping with back pain in coping with back pain, with statistically insignificant differences between yoga and physical therapy. The yoga classes in question contained a brief warm up, followed by gentle, strength-building positions such as wall dog and chair twist.
The study was aimed at more than reducing back pain; one of the key byproducts of the increasing preference for yoga for back pain would mean a decline in demand for pain medication. Since yoga is particularly effective in reducing pain intensity and strengthening the core muscles required to combat back ache, it can become a crucial tool in reducing the rising dependence on pain relief medicine. Opiate overdoses have become a leading cause of death in the middle aged of late, making the entry of yoga timely.