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A new study finds that a yoga program was more effective in treating lower back pain than another exercise program or reading a book about low back pain (Article, p. 849). One hundred and one patients with lower back pain were assigned to one of three groups and were followed for 26 weeks. Both the yoga group and the exercise group participated in 12 weekly, 75-minute classes. All patients could use drugs for back pain as needed. At 12 weeks, the yoga group had better back function than the other exercise group or the education group, although all reported about the same levels of pain. At 26 weeks, the yoga group reported better back function and less pain than the other two groups. The research study used Viniyoga, a type of gentle yoga with fairly simple poses adapted for the individual, and attention to breathing.
Lower back pain is a common condition for which usual treatments (drugs such as NSAIDs, pain-killers and muscle relaxants, and exercise) are only modestly effective. The author says that this is the first major study of yoga for back pain and shows that yoga is a viable option for reducing pain. The author notes that the yoga group in the study was supervised by a trained instructor attuned to low-back pain and that successful treatment also requires that patients practice regularly at home.
Notes to Editors:
Photographs of yoga class in session and two participants in the study are available. Call for an image. The article and drawings of the yoga poses used in the study are available on annals.org, beginning Dec. 20, 2005.
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