Yoga Helps To Ease Chronic Low Back Pain, New Study Finds


Individuals suffering from chronic lower back pain who integrate yoga into their routine may experience symptom relief, even if they primarily practice in the comfort of their own home.

In a small-scale investigation, researchers provided a series of eight yoga sessions over four weeks to 10 women dealing with chronic lower back pain. While the initial session was conducted in person, subsequent were conducted virtually.

Prior to commencing yoga practice, participants rated their back pain at an average of 6.8 on a 10-point scale. However, upon completion of the eight-class series, their average back pain scores decreased to 3.3, as reported in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.

Additionally, scientists observed a significant increase in muscle activity in the spine by the study’s conclusion, which is typically diminished or absent in individuals experiencing chronic back pain. These collective findings indicate that yoga may enhance muscle functionality and diminish the perception of pain in individuals suffering from low back pain.

Study coauthor, Alessandro de Sire, MD, of the Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro in Italy, said in a statement, “It was interesting to show the role that yoga might play in the management of chronic back pain.”

Due to the uniformity of yoga routines among all participants with back pain in the study, it becomes challenging to ascertain whether this form of exercise may offer differing levels of effectiveness in alleviating symptoms compared to other interventions.

Another limitation of the study is the age restriction, as participants were limited to those aged 40 and under and excluded if they presented with any medical conditions known to indue back pain. Consequently, it is difficult to determine whether yoga could yield similar advantages for older individuals or those afflicted with conditions such as stenosis or arthritis, which are recognized causes of back pain.

Nonetheless, Lauren Elson, MD, an expert in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical Schooland the director of dance medicine at Spaulding Rehabilitation at Mass General Brigham, highlights the myriad of benefits of yoga practice, particularly the emphasis on breathing during poses.

Dr. Elson, who wasn’t involved in the new study, says, “Many of the controlled breathing techniques and yoga helped to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Besides causing muscle relaxation, this causes a relaxation response in the body.”

Dr. Elson further suggests that engaging in yoga can lead to a reduction in pain levels, a decrease in anxiety, and an enhancement of overall well-being. Depending on the specific yoga posture, individuals may experience strengthening of the core muscles or activation and elongation of various muscles groups, thereby fostering improved flexibility and mobility.

Dr. Elson also points out that individuals suffering from back pain and discomfort during certain movements may need to refrain from yoga poses that involve these motions. For instance, individuals experiencing exacerbated back pain may need to avoid poses that entail forward bending or sitting on the floor.

Nonetheless, many individuals with back pain can still benefit from yoga practice by avoiding poses that trigger discomfort.

“If you can breathe, you can do yoga. That being said, if someone has a preexisting condition, they would likely benefit from guidance from a physical therapist who is well-versed in the different types of yoga, or a yoga teacher who understands their specific diagnosis,” Dr. Elson says.