Yoga Proves a Cost Effective Treatment for Back Pain

A program known as “Yoga for Healthy Backs” is saving people and health services a lot of money in the UK. Treatment of chronic back pain with yoga results in lower costs and fewer sick days.

If you are looking for a cost-effective way of relieving back pain, you may be in luck. A study led by the University of York evaluated the cost-effectiveness of yoga intervention plus standard care compared with standard care alone for chronic or recurrent lower back pain. This study was the largest one ever in the United Kingdom to study the benefits of yoga.

The study included two groups of people who suffered from chronic or recurrent back pain. A group of 156 people were offered group yoga classes specially designed to improve back function. The program was known as Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs. A second group was used as a control group and only received care from their general practitioner. Both groups received standard general practitioner care, which involved things such as referral to pain clinics and physiotherapists or prescription to painkillers. The trial lasted for 12 months, and included 12 weekly group classes of specialized yoga for the group receiving yoga intervention.1

The results from the trial showed the yoga intervention program is likely to be cost effective for both the UK National Health Service (NHS) as well as the society. Yoga classes are not currently available through the NHS in the UK. Consequently, researchers examined a range of possible costs. The researchers concluded that if the NHS were to offer specialized yoga and manage to keep the cost below the U.K.’s equivalent to about $500 US dollars for a cycle of 12 classes, the probability that the yoga intervention would be cost effective would be fairly high (about 70%).2

Another finding researchers pointed out was that those who took part in the yoga program had far fewer days off from work than those in the control group. A control group participant reported on average 12 days off due to back pain, compared to only 4 days off in the yoga group. In terms of cost, this resulted in the equivalent of about $2,000 US dollars for a control group member, compared to about the equivalent to $600 US dollars for the yoga group.3

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, said:

We welcome the fact that not only has yoga been found to help people manage their back pain, but that it is also cost effective, and results in fewer sick days. It is another option for people who are struggling to manage their condition, and one that encourages the move to self-management. Yoga is an intervention that has been proven to make their everyday lives easier and their pain more manageable.4

Considering that back pain is estimated to cost the NHS and the health care sector billions each year in the UK, this study provides enough evidence that yoga could not only alleviate back pain, but the costs associated with it as well. Back pain and its costs are not just limited to the UK, as the costs in the US rival those in the UK.

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