By: Allison Aubrey
If you’re tired of popping pain medicine for your lower back pain, yoga may be a good alternative.
New research finds that a yoga class designed specifically for back pain can be as safe and effective as physical therapy in easing pain.
The yoga protocol was developed by researchers at Boston Medical Center with input from yoga teachers, doctors and physical therapists.
During the class, trained instructors guide participants through gentle poses, including cat-cow, triangle pose and child’s pose. Simple relaxation techniques are part of the class as well. More difficult poses, such as inversions, are avoided.
A guidebook that details the poses taught during the class is freely available, as is a teacher training manual.
The findings, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are in line with new guidelines for treating back pain from the American College of Physicians. The group recommends that people with back pain should avoid pain medicines if possible, and instead opt for alternatives such as tai chi, yoga and massage. As we’ve reported, those guidelines are aimed at people with run-of-the-mill back pain, rather than pain due to an injury or other diagnosed problem.
Who was in the study? Researchers recruited 320 racially diverse, predominantly low-income participants in the Boston area, all of whom had chronic low back pain. The study lasted one year.
What did participants in the study do? Participants were 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. For the remainder of the year — roughly 40 weeks — participants in the yoga group were assigned to either drop-in classes or home practice. The PT group was assigned to either “PT booster sessions” or home practice.