December 21, 2005
A team from Seattle's Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies assessed 101 adults with back pain. Those who practiced weekly 75-minute yoga classes made greater progress than those who took part in strengthening and stretching classes. The Annals of Internal Medicine study also found yoga was more effective than using a self-care book on back pain. The researchers found that at the end of 12 weeks patients in the yoga group were better able to do daily activities involving the back. After another 14 weeks they also reported less pain, and used less pain relieving drugs. Researcher Dr Karen Sherman said: "Most people have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. "Sometimes the pain goes away in a few days, but sometimes it lasts for weeks. "And unfortunately, the treatments offered by modern Western medicine are only modestly effective."
The first group attended weekly, 75-minute classes to learn yoga and then practised at home, while the second spent 75 minutes a week doing aerobics. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that members of the yoga group were better at activities that put pressure on their backs. After six months, they were also in less pain and needed fewer pain relievers.. Yoga is a system of exercises based on Hindu spiritualism. The study concentrated on viniyoga, a therapeutic style that is easy for beginners to learn. Viniyoga links breathing and movement in flowing exercises that typically allow poses to be adapted for use by a variety of people. Because the style is adapted to each individual, it is particularly suited to treating back or neck problems. It can include common yoga exercises such as the “down dog” and “upward-facing dog” — which promote stretching of the entire back of the body and help to develop arm and shoulder strength — the “triangle” and the “easy bridge”.