Yoga Helps Chronic Pain

Yoga Helps Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be helped and even reversed by yoga.

YogaThat’s the message from a National Institutes of Health official speaking at the American Pain Society Annual Meeting in Palm Springs.

M. Catherine Bushnell , PhD, scientific director, Division of Intramural Research, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, said there is compelling evidence from studies conducted at NIH/NCCIH and other sites that mind-body techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can counteract the brain anatomy affects of chronic pain.

“Practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as does chronic pain,” said Bushnell.

She told the audience that many chronic pain patients show associated anxiety and depression as well as deficits in cognitive functions. In addition, brain imaging studies in rats and humans have shown alterations in gray matter volume and white matter integrity in the brain caused by the effects of chronic pain.

Decreased gray matter in the brain can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems and decreased cognitive functioning.

She said the studies show yoga practitioners have more gray matter than non-practitioners, in multiple brain regions including those involved in pain modulation. “Some gray matter increases in yogis correspond to duration of yoga practice, which suggests there is a causative link between yoga and gray matter increases,” Bushnell noted.

Assessing the impact of brain anatomy on pain reduction, Bushnell said gray matter changes in the insula or internal structures of the cerebral cortex are most significant for pain tolerance. “Insula gray matter size correlates with pain tolerance, and increases in insula gray matter can result from ongoing yoga practice,” said Bushnell.

“Brain anatomy changes may contribute to mood disorders and other affective and cognitive co-morbidities of chronic pain. The encouraging news for people with chronic pain is mind-body practices seem to exert a protective effect on brain gray matter that counteracts the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain,” Bushnell added.

Chronic pain sufferers who are in pain obviously often have a hard time working up the inclination and the energy to exercise. Prevention Magazine ran an article about 5 basic yoga exercises that chronic pain sufferers should try.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Yeah this should be for people who don’t have serous injury there’s no way I could do yoga I have a hard time pouring a glass milk


I am glad Yoga helps some. I tried it and did more damage to a already bad hip and my already weak joints in my shoulders gave way. Now that one hip is replaced there is no way for yoga as my body isn’t able to get into positions. So please check with your doctor first so you don’t go thru more pain as I did

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Marie Haverty

Yea would fully agree, last September started using a pain shild for TN. started doing Yoga around same time. Now 9 months later can say this year has been my best pain free year so far, hav;nt used pain shild for past 2 months still doing Yoga. rEGARDS mARIE.


I wonder what percentage of chronic pain patients use yoga instead of pain medications and in addition to pain medications.