Treating chronic lower back pain with yoga and physical therapy

Many people with chronic lower back pain undergo physical therapy to help improve their symptoms. A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine has suggested that yoga may be just as effective for chronic lower back pain.

  • Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) compared the effects of physical therapy and yoga exercises on chronic lower back pain.
  • For the study, they recruited 320 participants with chronic lower back pain. They were from an academic safety-net hospital and its affiliated community health centers and predominantly low-income.
  • The participants were randomly divided into three groups: One group took a weekly yoga class for three months, another group visited a physical therapist for 15 times over three months, and the third group received a back pain self-help book and educational newsletters via mail.
  • After three months, the yoga group went to drop-in sessions or practiced at home for another nine months, while the physical therapy group engaged in booster sessions with a physical therapist or practiced physical therapy exercises at home for nine months.
  • All the participants answered a questionnaire at the onset, the third month, and the first year of the study that asked about their level of back pain, activity limits, and pain medication usage.
  • Researchers also monitored the participants’ satisfaction with treatment and quality of life.
  • Results revealed that yoga had similar effects to physical therapy in decreasing pain, enhancing function, and reducing the need for pain medications.
  • Treatment satisfaction was also similar among the physical therapy and yoga groups.

Therefore, the researchers concluded that yoga should be considered as a treatment option for chronic lower back pain.

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Journal Reference:

Saper RB, Lemaster C, Delitto A, Sherman KJ, Herman PM, Sadikova E, Stevans J, Keosaian JE, Cerrada CJ, Femia AL, et al. YOGA, PHYSICAL THERAPY, OR EDUCATION FOR CHRONIC LOW BACK PAIN: A RANDOMIZED NONINFERIORITY TRIAL. Annals of Internal Medicine. 20 June 2017;167(2):85–94. DOI: 10.7326/M16-2579





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