Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain

By<b>by Jennifer Thomas</b><br><i>healthday Reporter</i>
September 08, 2009, 2:18 PM

Sept. 9 -- TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Practicing yoga can help ease chronic lower back pain, a new study shows.

Researchers divided 90 people, aged 23 to 66, who had mild to moderate functional disability as a result of back pain into two groups.

One group did 90-minute sessions of Iyengar yoga twice a week for six months. The other group continued whatever medical therapy or treatments they'd been doing.

At the three-month and six-month marks, a greater proportion of those who'd done yoga reported improvements in their pain and functioning as measured by questionnaires that asked about pain levels, difficulty performing physical tasks and pain medications being taken. Yoga participants also reported fewer symptoms of depression.

"The yoga group had less pain, less functional disability and less depression, compared with the control group," study author Kimberly Williams, a research assistant professor in the department of community medicine at West Virginia University, said in a statement. "These were statistically significant and clinically important changes that were maintained six months after the intervention."

The study is published in the September issue of Spine.

Iyengar yoga, a form of hatha yoga that's popular in the United States, builds strength, flexibility and balance by taking participants through a series of specific poses.

Dr. Todd J. Albert, chairman of the department of orthopedics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia, said the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was well-designed.

"I have found yoga and Pilates are great for chronic low back pain," Albert said. "There is so much concentration on core strengthening, which is critical for people who have been de-conditioned."

Lower back pain can cause people to stop exercising because of discomfort or fear of causing further injury to their back. The lack of activity can cause the back muscles to become "de-conditioned," or weakened, setting up conditions for even more chronic pain.

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