Nowadays, millions of people are leading a sedentary lifestyle and over time, the mobility and flexibility of their body are considerably reduced. As a result of that, low back pain occurs, a disorder that causes a dull constant ache, but many patients experience a sudden sharp feeling.
Medical experts estimated that almost 80% of Americans suffer from low back pain at some point in their life.
Some of the treatments for low back pain are physical therapy sessions, muscle strengthening exercises, and analgesic medication. In case if these therapies are ineffective, some patients need a surgery.
Unfortunately, the therapies for low back pain are not highly successful. Namely, studies have shown that from 25 to 80 % of the patients who were treated for chronic low back pain experience recurrence of the pain within 1 year from the treatment.
Doctors explain that this actually is the reason why patients who are suffering from this type of pain often try alternative therapies, including acupuncture or yoga.
According to a report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is enough evidence that supports the fact that yoga has “short- and long-term benefits” in relieving chronic low back pain.
Scientists explain that there are previous studies which also suggest that yoga and stretching help ease low back pain. However, chronic low back pain tends to affect racial and ethnic minorities in particular but also affects people with a lower socioeconomic background. Experts add that in this population the benefits of yoga may not have been studied meticulously.
Researchers from the Boston Medical Center conducted a study and their aim was to examine the effect of yoga sessions. In this study were included 320 adults with chronic low back pain and all participants were of various races and ethnicities. The participants included in this study had an income equal to or lower than $30,000 per a year. The first author of the study is Dr. Robert B. Saper published the results of this study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Yoga a ‘reasonable alternative’
At this point, it is important to mention that participants of this study were randomly assigned to either attend to 15 physical therapy sessions, 12 weekly yoga sessions or simply to read an educational book and newsletters about how to manage chronic low back pain. After the interventions, scientists continued to follow the participants during the next year, and the research process included a 40-week maintenance phase.
Researchers add that during the maintenance phase, yoga participants either took yoga drop-in classes or practiced yoga at home, and the participants who were attending to physical therapy took part in physical therapy booster sessions or practiced physical therapy at home.
In order to assess the functionality of the participants, Saper and colleagues used the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire. Moreover, in order to assess pain levels, researchers used an 11-point scale at 12 weeks.
The results of this trial study showed that yoga was “statistically as effective” as physical therapy for alleviating pain. It was determined that yoga helps the patients to be more functional and also helped them to reduce the intake of medications for reducing the pain.
It is also important to mention that both, yoga and physical therapy have a positive effect and reduce the low back pain even after 1 year of the study.
The authors of this study came to a conclusion that yoga is a “reasonable alternative” to physical therapy. They write:
“In conclusion, we found that yoga was non-inferior to [physical therapy] for improving moderate to severe nonspecific [chronic low back pain] in a diverse, predominantly low-income population.”
Last but not least, it is important to mention that researchers consider that yoga may prove to be a more cost-effective treatment alternative, unlike other low back pain therapies. However, this depends on the cost of the yoga classes and the availability of the patients who suffer from chronic low back pain. It is estimated that annually, chronic low back pain costs Americans approximately $50 billion.