The Alternative Treatment for Lower Back Pain - Yoga Myth Debunked

Tue 29 Aug

Chronic lower back pain is costing the United States more than $200 billion every year.

As the leading cause of disability in the world, there is a real effort by scientists to find effective treatments for people, which does not involve medical intervention like pain killers, or in extreme cases, surgery.

To help give evidence towards alternative chronic lower back pain treatments, a new study lead by Robert B. Saper at Boston Medical Centre, carried out over 1 year set out to see if yoga sessions were as effective as physical therapy (PT) sessions in treating chronic lower back pain.

The scientists looked for patients to have increased function in their backs and less pain at the end of the study.

Patients were put into 3 treatment groups of either yoga sessions, PT sessions or a control group which received educational information about chronic lower back pain. For an initial 12 weeks, the yoga group of patients had weekly sessions compared to the PT group who visited a practitioner 15 times. After this initial treatment phase, patients were left to carry on the treatment themselves going to drop-in yoga classes or doing PT practices at home.

Yoga has been shown to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate chronic lower back pain however, the results of this study show that treatment with yoga is just as effective as PT.

An interesting side result from the study was that compared to the group of patients who only received educational leaflets as a treatment option, the patients who did either PT sessions or yoga were more likely to stop taking pain medication.

One concern was that the placebo effect may have had an influence in patients. However, the length of the study, including the 40-week follow up, means that any placebo effect would have been minimized.

It seems that this study does show that the alternative therapy of yoga is just as good as PT in the treatment of chronic lower back pain but only if you keep at it!

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