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There’s a certain amount of back pain to be expected when you do exercise: weight training, HIIT, CrossFit, martial arts, or marathon running to name a few. After all, high impact exercise can take a toll on your joints, including the joints connecting the vertebra in your spine. Lower back pain is also common among more sedentary adults. Long hours spent sitting, often with poor posture, can lead to muscular deficiencies and discomfort.
The Spine Journal estimates that back pain caused more than two million visits to the emergency room in the U.S. last year alone. While most back pain episodes last only a short time, chronic back pain is becoming much more common. Common causes include a wide range of diseases (such as spinal stenosis or radiculopathy), poor posture, imbalanced musculature, and injuries. However, the cases of unexplained back pain (where there are no known causes of the painful pressure on the spinal cord) are also becoming more frequent.
A new study looked at the use of yoga to treat back pain—specifically, the chronic lower back pain with an unknown cause. The study examined data collected in 12 different studies around the world, using information from more than 1,000 participants in their 30s and 40s. Yoga was compared to non-exercise interventions to determine if there was any difference in the improvement in chronic pain.
While the data collected wasn’t fully reliable, the meta-analysis showed that yoga had very visible potential to reduce lower back pain and improve back function. The results were especially noticeable within the first six months to a year of practice. Granted, the improvement was relatively small, and it did increase the back pain in as many as 5% of participants. However, compared to a no-exercise intervention, yoga did prove a more effective treatment option.
So, can yoga really help to cure back pains? According to this study: probably, but further research is needed. The data collected in this study wasn’t the most reliable, so further clinical trials are needed to determine the precise long-term effects of yoga. However, when it comes down to it, the fact that yoga may be able to help with your back pain should be reason enough to give it a try. Instead of going the route of medication or surgery, wouldn’t it be easier to spend a few months practicing yoga to try to improve the pain naturally? You always have the more invasive and permanent solutions, but yoga could be a good way to combat lower back pain especially in cases of non-specific pains.
1. L. Susan Wieland et al., “Yoga treatment for chronic non-specific low back pain,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010671.pub2, published online 11 January 2017.