Yoga is good for your back – official!

IY (UK) teachers were involved in the UK’s largest research trial about the benefits of yoga. Recently published results help to prove that appropriate yoga is an effective and safe treatment for non-specific low back pain.

Yoga can provide more effective treatment for chronic lower back pain than more conventional methods, according to the UK’s largest ever study into the benefits of yoga. University of York research funded by Arthritis Research UK, found that people offered a specially-designed 12-week yoga programme experienced greater improvements in back function and more confidence in performing everyday tasks than those offered conventional GP care.

Research focused on ­ people’s ability to undertake activities without being limited by back pain, measured using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire. Although improvements in back function were more pronounced at three months, researchers found there was still an improvement in people’s ability to perform tasks such as walking more quickly, getting dressed without help or standing up for longer periods of time even nine months after classes had finished.

The trial involved two groups of people who were both receiving GP care for chronic or recurrent back pain. A 156-strong group were offered group yoga classes specially designed to improve back function, while a second control group of 157 people were offered GP care alone. Lower back pain is a common episodic condition, with 80 per cent of the UK population suffering from it at some point in their lives. It is estimated that around 4.9 million working days a year are lost due to back pain.

However, few effective, evidence-based treatments exist.Trial participants completed a questionnaire at three, six and 12 months from the start of the programme. On average, members of the yoga group were able to undertake 30 per cent more activities compared with those in the usual care group after three months, a statistically significant difference between the two groups which has been recognised as clinically important. The trial showed that there was more reduction in pain in the yoga group than the usual care group, but of marginal statistical significance.
The 12-week yoga group programme may improve back function more than exercise and manipulation, cognitive-behaviour treatment and six sessions of 1-to-1 Alexander technique, but not as much as 24 sessions of 1-to-1 Alexander technique.Yoga participants were surveyed nine months after classes had finished and more than half of those who responded were still regularly practising yoga, mostly at home, twice a week.

‘Yoga for chronic low back pain: A randomized trial’ is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and you can read it here:

http://www.annals.org/content/155/9/569.full.pdf+html