By Ed Coghlan
As yoga grows in popularity, there is growing evidence that it can help treat chronic lower back pain. The Cochrane Library published consolidated studies from 12 worldwide trials with 1080 patients carried out. Most trials used Iyengar, Hatha, or Viniyoga forms of yoga.
The authors indicated there is “low- to moderate-certainty evidence that yoga compared to non-exercise controls results in small to moderate improvements in back-related function at three and six months.”
Many people who are healing from injury or illness, or who suffer from chronic pain, especially back pain, have heard from their doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists that yoga may help. But they wonder how one can do yoga if suffering from chronic pain.
The answer from many health practitioners and, of course, from yoga advocates is it can help.
The key seems to be to practice it very gently at first and practice it only with a yoga instructor who knows what he or she is doing.
What the studies have shown is that yoga is probably better than doing nothing and might be a little better than other back exercises you are already doing.
“The yoga exercises practiced in the studies were developed for lower back pain and people should also remember that in each of the studies we reviewed, the yoga classes were led by experienced practitioners,” said Dr. L. Susan Wieland from the University of Maryland who was lead author in the study.
She also warned that one in 20 participants in the 12 studies had reported their back pain getting worse after starting a course of yoga.
Here’s a story from the Telegraph that quoted Dr. Wieland.
Often lower back pain cases have an unknown cause, making them hard to treat, and patients often use strong painkillers to address the discomfort.
The American Physical Therapy Association published a poll that had some key findings about how widespread low back pain is.
- More than one-third of adults say low back pain has affected their ability to engage in tasks of daily living (39 percent), exercise (38 percent), and sleep (37 percent).
- Low back pain isn’t just for those who spend a lot of time on their feet. In fact, more than half (54 percent) of Americans who experience low back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting.
- Men (31 percent) are more likely than women (20 percent) to report that low back pain affects their ability to do work.
- When experiencing low back pain, nearly three in four (72 percent) Americans use pain medication as a way to relieve their symptoms. More than half (55 percent) said they use heat and cold packs at home for relief.
Editor’s Note: In a study of one—namely myself—I know that exercise helps deal with lower back pain from which I’ve endured for nearly four decades. Let us know your thoughts.