Treat Back Pain with Yoga


 “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” ~B.K.S. Iyengar


Low Back Pain affects a wide swath of humanity (6% to 15%) and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It affects almost everyone with 80% of the population experiencing back pain sometime during their lives. There are varied treatments for low back pain including chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage, surgery, opiate pain killing drugs, steroid injections, and muscle relaxant drugs.


The therapies are sometimes effective particularly for acute back pain. But, for chronic conditions the treatments are less effective and often require continuing treatment for years. Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments for low back pain that are low cost and don’t have troublesome side effects. Since many yoga poses focus on stretching and strengthen in the back, it makes sense that yoga practice when done properly should be helpful for low-back pain. Indeed, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which includes yoga practice is effective for low back pain


In today’s Research News article “Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain”

Williams and colleagues examine the effectiveness of 24 weeks of Iyengar yoga practice on adults who have been suffering from low-back pain for longer than 3 months. They randomly assigned participants to either yoga practice or to receive standard medical care.


They found that the pain sufferers who participated in yoga had a 42% greater reduction in pain intensity than the group receiving standard medical care. This resulted in a trend toward a greater reduction in the use of pain medications in the yoga group. Importantly, the yoga participants showed a 24% greater improvement in their ability to carry on with normal activities, with a larger number of yoga participants having a clinically significant decrease in functional disability. In addition, the yoga participants showed a large, 47%, reduction in depression levels in comparison to the standard medical care participants. These effects were produced without any significant adverse effects and were still present 6-months after the conclusion of the active treatment.


These results confirm that yoga practice is a safe and effective treatment that produces long-term improvements in chronic low-back pain and in turn improves the patients’ abilities to carry on everyday activities and in turn reduces depression. This also appears to reduce the individuals use of drugs to treat their pain symptoms. Yoga has so many beneficial effects (see in addition to the assistance with pain that it would seem to be an almost ideal treatment.


So, practice yoga and improve low-back pain and disability.


“Hatha is the sanctuary for those suffering every type of pain. It is the foundation for those practicing every type of Yoga.” ~Svatmarama


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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