If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, you may want to roll out that yoga mat.
According to a review of new research published in Cochrane Library, yoga may provide some relief for people dealing with lower back pain — it can even improve their ability to perform everyday activities. This is good news for the countless people who rely on costly medications to manage their pain.
The review analyzes the results of 12 clinical trials involving more than 1,000 people in the United States, the United Kingdom and India. Every participant suffered from chronic, non-specific lower back pain, meaning that their symptoms had lasted at least three months and could not be attributed to a specific disease or injury. Overall, experts found that compared to no exercise, yoga can improve function and reduce symptoms of lower back pain by a small amount in the first six months to one year of practice.
However, lead author Susan Wieland, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, noted that the amount of improvement seen in most of the studies was minor. “These differences were small, and might not be very meaningful to patients,” she says. Wieland also points out that all of the routines practiced in the studies were developed specifically for people with lower back pain, and classes were led by experienced professionals. “If people are considering yoga, they should do their best to check that the program is safe and intended for back-pain sufferers, and that teacher has some amount of experience with this population,” she says.
“Research shows that being active is a smart thing to do,” says Wieland. Although it should be up to patients and their doctors to decide exactly how they want to be active, she adds, “the evidence suggests that yoga can be one option to consider.”