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Yoga Effective At Relieving Low Back Pain, Review Shows

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By Natalie San Luis

The poses, breathing and meditation in a yoga class may do more than help you relax and feel centered. A review of evidence shows that it might relieve low Back Pain as well.

Researchers recently looked at past trials that tested how well yoga stacked up against other treatments for chronic low back pain.

The majority of the studies in this review reported significant improvements in the patients' ability and pain levels.

In some of the trials, yoga was more effective than standard medical care and led to reduced use of pain medications.

The authors of this review suggested yoga as a viable treatment option for some patients experiencing pain in their lower backs.

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William Hanney, PT, DPT, PhD, of the Program in Physical Therapy at the University of Central Florida, and colleagues conducted the review to see if yoga could help patients with lower back pain.

According to these researchers, 84 percent of people experience pain in their lower back at some point in their lifetime. For some, this pain can last for months or years and can significantly affect a patient's quality of life.

Yoga, which is a form of exercise that focuses on postures, breathing and meditation, has been studied as a possible treatment for patients with chronic low back pain.

This review looked at 10 studies involving patients who had experienced low back pain for at least 12 weeks. Each of the studies identified yoga as a primary treatment focus.

Some of the studies compared yoga treatment to other forms of physical activity, education and other forms of medical care.

These studies also tested different types of yoga, some of which emphasized holding poses, repeating poses and correcting muscular imbalances. The researchers took note of the patients' pain levels and levels of disability.

Dr. Hanney and colleagues found that yoga was a superior treatment for chronic low back pain compared to physical exercises, use of a self-care book and standard medical care, which often involves pain medication.

In three studies that compared yoga to stretching techniques, no treatment and usual care with advice, there was no statistical difference in lower back pain.

Several of the studies suggested that yoga reduced disability, improved quality of life and reduced the amount of pain medication that the patients used.

Several different types of yoga, like hatha, Iyengar and integrated yoga, were tested, but each of them focused on asanas, or body positions.

Additionally, the treatment lengths varied greatly. The length of each class, the number of classes taken and the frequency of classes were different in each of the studies.

The authors of this review noted that the inconsistencies in the studies prevented an accurate summary of the best yoga treatment plan for low back pain. They concluded, however, that most of the studies still led to significant health improvements.

These authors suggested that health care practitioners should consider yoga as a viable option for treating patients with low back pain.

This review was published in the November/December edition of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

The authors of the review did not disclose funding information or conflicts of interest.

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