Yoga just as good for back pain as physical therapy

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Saper and his colleagues found that the weekly yoga classes helped manage pain nearly as much as physical therapy, and more than education.

A team of researchers from several US institutions studied more than 300 racially diverse, low-income patients with chronic back pain. "Both yoga and physical therapy are excellent non-drug approaches for low back pain", said lead author Dr. Robert Saper, of Boston Medical Center.

The research bolsters the scientific case for yoga as a potential therapy for back pain. Previous studies have also indicated that regular sessions of yoga significantly lowered the risk of high blood pressure and cardio vascular diseases.

Almost 10 percent Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain and according to the NIH, almost 80 percent adults experience it at some juncture.

Until now, no research has compared the two.

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320 adults with moderate to severe back pain participated in the study. The participants were racially diverse and tended to have low incomes.

With all those different positions and contortions, some might think yoga would aggravate back pain, which is an issue for millions of Americans. Another took part in a physical therapy program over the same amount of time. People who kept up their yoga practice saw the biggest improvements in lower back pain.

When the study began, about 70 percent of the patients were taking some form of 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.

To track participants function and pain during the study, the researchers surveyed them at six, 12, 26, 40 and 52 weeks using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ). Participants who received education had an average RMDQ score decline of 2.5. Yoga has many health benefits such as reduce stress and improve fitness.

It's called "chronic" back pain for a reason: it just never seems to go away. The mass yoga session pictured here took place at Peking University in China on Tuesday, to mark the first International Day of Yoga. That difference was 22 percentage points for physical therapy versus education. Some were assigned yoga, while others underwent traditional physical therapy over the course of three months.

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