Yoga shown to be an effective treatment for lower back pain

Yoga shown to be an effective treatment for lower back pain

Just finishing up the Symposium on Yoga Research here at Kripalu, a beautiful yoga retreat center in Massachusetts.  Research scientists from all over the world convened here to review the latest yoga research.

I learned about a trial on back pain and yoga that I want to share with you.   

Dr. Saper, who ran this trial, took a year off during medical school to do research at Kripalu.  Then he finished up med school and became a family practice doctor; twenty years later, he came back to Kripalu for yoga teacher training!   So, Dr. Saper put this trial together from a place of deep wisdom about both science and yoga.

The researchers divided approximately 300 patients with chronic back pain into three different groups.  One group was given education about back pain, including a book about what causes back pain, etc (this was sort of like a placebo group).  A second group was treated with PT, which is standard therapy. A third group was treated with yoga. All groups were offered medications. Everybody had therapy once a week for three months, and then they were encouraged to continue treatment on their own for a full year.  

The results showed that at both 3 and 12 months, the patients in the yoga and PT groups had less pain than the patients in the education group.  Taa-daa! Yoga works!! This research corroborates several previous trials demonstrating that yoga is an effective treatment for back pain. My personal opinion is that this one was pretty interesting, because they included what they called “yogic philosophy” in the classes… and as I was reading this, I realized that they literally taught the yamas and niyamas!  So exciting to see science embracing yoga not just as a set of movements, but for all the tools it brings us.

Here’s the full citation for you die-hard scientists out there:  

Saper RB, et al.  Yoga, Physical Therapy, or Education for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Noninferiority Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Jul 18;167(2):85-94.


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