A new study indicates that yoga may be as effective for back pain as physical therapy.
The yoga protocol utilized in the study was developed by researchers at Boston Medical Center, with additional input from yoga instructors, doctors, and physical therapists. The study included 320 participants with moderate to severe back pain, all of whom received one of three approaches over a three-month time span: weekly yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, and clinical education surrounding ways to cope with back pain.
The findings, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are directly in line with new guidelines for treating back pain from the American College of Physicians. concluded that yoga was as effective as physical therapy, and both groups were 20% less likely to use pain medication than those patients solely receiving education.
Dr. Robert Saper of Boston Medical Center, one of the report’s authors, states: “Yoga was as effective as physical therapy for reducing pain intensity. Perhaps most importantly, reducing pain medication use.” At the outset of the study, 70% of the patients were taking a form of pain medication; at the end of three months, the percentage of yoga and physical therapy participants still taking pain medication dropped to 50%.
As opiate overdoses are now the leading cause of death for adults under age 50, the results offer compelling reasons to find approaches for chronic pain that do not involve narcotics–including tai-chi, yoga, and massage. Saper remarks that if research shows that yoga can be as effective, perhaps it should be considered as a potential therapy that can “be more widely disseminated and covered by insurance.”