Back pain and recurrent back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries that plague adults. It is has been estimated that 80-90% of adults experience low back pain in their lifetime. Unfortunately, we do not have a great solution for pure low back pain.
Treatment mainly consists of time, medication, and physical therapy. Surgery is the LAST resort.
A question I am asked many times in clinic is if yoga is effective for low back pain. Unfortunately, we do not have randomized blinded studies comparing yoga to physical therapy to other modes of treatment. However, some newer studies have demonstrated that yoga may be cost effective in helping patients with low back pain and recurrent pain.
One study recommended 12 weekly group classes focusing on core strengthening is likely to be a cost-effective intervention. Another study from the UK found in a randomized trial that on average, participants who received 1 yoga class per week during three months had improved back function at the end of randomization and also at 12 months postrandomization.
Why does yoga work? No real answer exists; however, I believe there are a couple of reasons.
- the enjoyment of participating in yoga can help alleviate some pain
- yoga focuses on balance and core strengthening which is the “core” of physical therapy to help low back pain
a. by strengthening your core muscles, you help alleviate the burden that the spine (bone, facet joints, and disc) has to bear
- stretching helps relieve some of the muscular components of low back pain
In summary, is yoga the panacea? Unlikely, but I tell my patients if you enjoy yoga I believe it is worthwhile to continue to help prevent low back pain flares up. Likely, low back patients will experience another episode of pain as this is a chronic issue, but doing things such as yoga I believe may lessen the severity and perhaps the frequency.
Links to read if interested