Yoga Trumps Usual Care for Improving Back Function

Over Long Term, Yoga Trumps Usual Care for Improving Back Function in Patients Suffering from Low Back Pain

In the largest and longest study of its kind published to date, more than 300 patients were followed for one year

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PHILADELPHIA, November 1, 2011 -- Chronic or recurrent back pain cost the U.S. health care system billions of dollars each year, and is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor. In an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians, researchers conducted a trial to determine whether offering a 12-week yoga program to adults with chronic or recurrent low back pain could improve back function better than usual care (back pain education booklet and continuation of treatments patients were already receiving).

More than 300 participants were randomly assigned to either a 12-session, 3-month yoga program (n = 156) or usual care (n = 157). Patients reported back function at 3, 6, and 12 months by filling out the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) that rated symptoms such as function and pain on a scale of 0 (best) to 24 (worst). The yoga group reported better back function but similar back pain and general health scores throughout the trial. Improvements in back function were most pronounced at 3 months, immediately after the intervention, but confidence in performing normal activities despite pain improved more in the yoga group than in the usual care group at 3 and 6 months. Eight participants reported adverse events, such as increased pain, that may have been related to yoga.

The researchers conclude that yoga may be a safe and effective treatment for patients with chronic low back pain.

About Annals of Internal Medicine
Annals of Internal Medicine is one of the five most widely cited peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, with a current impact factor of 16.2. The journal has been published for 82 years. It accepts only 7 percent of the original research studies submitted for publication. Follow Annals on Twitter and Facebook.