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Yoga might relieve lower backache

Yoga classes might help people by relieving them from their chronic lower backache.

Yoga might relieve lower backache

Yoga classes might help people by relieving them from their chronic lower backache. Researchers from the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle conducted a study of 101 adults with persistent low back pain and found that a gentle yoga class seemed to be a better alternative to either general exercise or a self-help book. Though people in the exercise class eventually improved to a similar degree as their yoga-practicing counterparts, but yoga class brought quicker results. It's possible that yoga's benefits for both the body and mind explain the effects on lower back pain. The study participants took a slower-moving form of yoga that was designed for people with lower back problems. Vigorous styles of yoga that include more-advanced poses could potentially make chronic back pain worse. It's estimated that 14 million Americans practice yoga, often as a way to treat chronic aches and pains. But, in the Western medical literature at least, there have been no published studies on the effects of yoga on chronic back pain. The researchers randomly assigned 101 adults to take either 12 weeks of yoga class or 12 weeks of a standard therapeutic exercise class, or to follow the advice of a self-care book. The yoga class was conducted in what's known as the viniyoga style, which goes by the philosophy that poses should be adapted to the individual's needs. The instructor was experienced in therapeutic yoga, and the class was limited to basic poses that would not put too much strain on the back. After 12 weeks, the yoga practitioners reported better back function than their peers in either of the other two groups. After another three months, those in the exercise group had improved to a similar degree as the yogis. The findings don't clearly show whether yoga or standard, therapy-focused exercise is better for low back pain. One difference between the yoga practitioners and other two groups that remained over the long haul: At the last evaluation, the yogis were using less than half the amount of pain medication their peers were. Why yoga showed a quicker benefit for low back pain, is an open question. But researchers speculated that yoga's mind and body effects are at work. Viniyoga, like other forms of yoga, focuses on coordinating movement with the breath and focusing the mind. It's possible that yoga allowed the back pain sufferers to become more aware of their habitual movements and postures that may have been contributing to their back problems in the first place. Certain back problems, like spinal disc injuries, might not respond well to yoga. But most people, non-specific back pain involving muscles, soft tissue and nerves and for them, therapeutic yoga could be worth a try.
Annals of Internal Medicine,
December 2005
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