Improve Chronic Neck Pain with Yoga

Improve Chronic Neck Pain with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“yoga may be an effective treatment for people dealing with chronic neck pain, and that it may also result in improved psychological effects.” – Nicole Joseph


We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully mild and short lived. But, for many, pain is a constant in their lives. The most common forms of chronic pain are back and neck pain. Neck pain is the number three cause of chronic pain; affecting more than a quarter of Americans.

There is a myriad of causes for chronic neck pain, including something as simple as improper positioning while sleeping, or even sitting or standing with bad posture. It can also occur due to injuries, accidents, heavy lifting or other spinal issues.


Just as there are many different causes there are also a plethora of treatments for neck pain. The most common is the use of drugs, including over –the-counter pain relievers and at times opiates. These are helpful but have limited effectiveness and opiates can lead to addiction and even death. Sometimes the pain can lead to surgical interventions that can be costly and are not always effective. So, alternative treatments such as acupuncture have also been used with some success. Physical therapy and chiropractic care have also been shown to be effective. Mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating pain and specific practices such as yoga can be effective for the relief of chronic low-back pain.  Many forms of yoga focus on the proper alignment of the spine, which could directly address the source of neck pain for many individuals.


There has been a considerable amount of research on the effects of yoga practice on chronic neck pain. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been discovered. In today’s Research News article “Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain: A PRISMA systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Li and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the 10 published randomized controlled trials of the application of yoga practice for chronic neck pain.


They report that the published research found that yoga practice significantly reduced neck pain and neck pain related disability in comparison to other exercises except Pilates which produced an equivalent relief of pain and disability. These studies also found that yoga practice significantly improved the range of motion in the neck, the physical and mental quality of life, anxiety, and depression. They summarized only on short-term studies. But there were 3 studies that found significant improvements in the chronic neck pain patients that were still present 3 month later.


Hence, the published controlled research studies found that yoga practice was safe and effective for the treatment of chronic neck pain with suggestions that the benefits are long lasting. These are very promising results that suggest that yoga practice should be recommended for the treatment of patients with chronic neck pain, relieving the pain and disability, improving motion, quality of life, and mood.


So, improve chronic neck pain with yoga.


“yoga might enhance both the toning of muscles and releasing of muscle tension. Relaxation responses, therefore, could reduce stress related muscle tension and modify neurobiological pain perception. . .  lyengar yoga can be a safe and effective treatment option for chronic neck pain.” – Science Daily


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Li, Y., Li, S., Jiang, J., & Yuan, S. (2019). Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain: A PRISMA systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 98(8), e14649.




Chronic nonspecific neck pain (CNNP) has a high prevalence and is more common among younger people. Clinical practice suggests that yoga is effective in relieving chronic pain.


This meta-analysis aimed to quantitatively summarize the efficacy of yoga for treating CNNP.

Data sources:

We searched for trials in the electronic databases from their inception to January 2019. English databases including PubMed, MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, Embase, Scopus, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Ind Med; Chinese databases including China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), WanFang Database, and VIP Information. We also conducted a manual search of key journals and the reference lists of eligible papers to identify any potentially relevant studies we may have missed. We placed no limitations on language or date of publication.

Study eligibility criteria:

We included only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and q-RCTs evaluating the effects of yoga on patients with CNNP. The primary outcomes for this review were pain and disability, and the secondary outcomes were cervical range of motion (CROM), quality of life (QoL), and mood.

Participants and interventions:

Trails that examined the clinical outcomes of yoga intervention in adults with CNNP compared with those of other therapies except yoga (e.g., exercise, pilates, usual care, et al) were included.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods:

Cochrane risk-of-bias criteria were used to assess the methodological quality, and RevMan 5.3 software was used to conduct the meta-analysis.


A total of 10 trials (n = 686) comparing yoga and interventions other than yoga were included in the meta-analysis. The results show that yoga had a positive effects on neck pain intensity (total effect: SMD = −1.13, 95% CI [−1.60, −0.66], Z = 4.75, P < .00001), neck pain-related functional disability (total effect: SMD = −0.92, 95% CI [−1.38, −0.47], Z = 3.95, P < .0001), CROM (total effect: SMD = 1.22, 95% CI [0.87, 1.57], Z = 6.83, P < .00001), QoL (total effect: MD = 3.46, 95% CI [0.75, 6.16], Z = 2.51, P = .01), and mood (total effect: SMD = −0.61, 95% CI [−0.95, −0.27], Z = 3.53, P = .0004).

Conclusions and implications of key findings:

It was difficult to make a comprehensive summary of all the evidence due to the different session and duration of the yoga interventions, and the different outcome measurement tools in the study, we draw a very cautious conclusion that yoga can relieve neck pain intensity, improve pain-related function disability, increase CROM, improve QoL, and boost mood. This suggests that yoga might be an important alternative in the treatment of CNNP.


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