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Yoga Beats Physiotherapy for Chronic Low Back Pain

20 Aug

Researchers from the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation (SVYASA) in Bangalore, India evaluated changes in pain, anxiety, depression and spinal mobility for chronic low back pain patients on short-term, residential Yoga and physical exercise programs, including comprehensive yoga lifestyle modifications.

This seven-day, randomized, controlled, single-blind study, in a residential Holistic Health Centre in Bangalore, India, assigned 80 patients (37 female, 43 male) with chronic low back pain to yoga and physical exercise groups.

The Yoga program consisted of specific asanas (body postures) and pranayamas (breath exercises) for back pain, meditation, yogic counseling, and lectures on yoga philosophy. The control group program included physical therapy exercises for back pain and matching counseling and education sessions.

Group x Time interactions and between-group differences were significant in all variables (p<0.05 for each). Both groups' scores on the numerical rating scale for pain reduced significantly - 49% for the Yoga arm (p<0.001, ES=1.62), and 17.5% for the controls (p=0.005, ES=0.67).
State anxiety (STAI) reduced 20.4% (p<0.001, ES=0.72) and trait anxiety 16% (p<0.001, ES=1.09) in the yoga group. Depression (BDI) decreased in both groups - 47% in the yoga arm (p<0.001, ES=0.96,) and 19.9% in the controls (p<0.001, ES=0.59). Spinal mobility ('Sit and Reach' instrument) improved in both groups, 50%, in yoga (p<0.001, ES=2.99) and 34.6% in the controls (p<0.001, ES=0.81).

The study concludes that seven days of intensive residential Yoga reduces pain, anxiety, and depression, and improves spinal mobility in patients with chronic low back pain more effectively than physiotherapy exercises.

Citation: Tekur P, Nagarathna R, Chametcha S, Hankey A, Nagendra HR. A comprehensive yoga programs improves pain, anxiety and depression in chronic low back pain patients more than exercise: an RCT. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2012 Jun;20 (3):pp.107-18. Epub 2012 Jan 28. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award