Yoga vs Physical Therapy for Back Pain Relief

yoga for back pain relief

Yoga, an ancient practice developed in India almost four thousand years ago, has gained huge popularity among people across the globe. According to a research, it was revealed that around 15 million people in the United States do yoga.

Yoga Proves as Good as Physical Therapy for Back Pain Relief

In the United States, yoga classes comprise of a combination of the following:

– Physical exercises
– Breathing exercises
– Meditation

Yoga has been used for many thousands of years to promote health and prevent diseases. Those with back problems have found yoga to be very helpful in:

– Relieving pain
– Boosting strength and flexibility
– Teaching relaxation
– Coping with the pain

In the last few years, researchers have shown interest in studying various effects of yoga on treating various health conditions. According to studies, yoga may emerge as a useful part of the treatment plan for several medical conditions including:

– Back problems
– Heart disease
– Carpal tunnel syndrome
– Epilepsy
– Asthma
– Addiction
– Neck pain

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The latest research has revealed that yoga is as well as physical therapy for reducing chronic low back pain. According to Managing Director of Integrative Medicine at Boston Medical Center Robert B. Saper, the effectiveness of yoga as a therapy was most obviously among those who continued with it. Saper presented his study at the 2016 Annual Meeting of American Academy of Pain Management.

In a previous research, it has been shown that yoga improves pain and function and reduces the use of medication. The research also reveals a positive effect of physical therapy (PT) in treating people with back pain.

Saper says that yoga and PT are effective. Unfortunately, the comparative effectiveness is yet to be known. He believes that yoga needs to be at least as effective as conventional therapy to introduce yoga officially as complementary health practice into mainstream health care. I would say that (at minimum). It should also offer other benefits including cost-effectiveness.

The study was conducted by enrolling 320 adult patients from Boston-area community health centers.The researchers ensured that these patients had chronic back pain with no obvious anatomic cause (spinal stenosis). All patients had “quite high” pain scores which scaled on an average of 7 out of 10. They were also “quite disabled” due to back pain. Around 240 out of these patients used pain medication, and 64 were taking opioids. Saper mentioned that the recruitment of patients went really smooth and most people in the United States are suffering from chronic pain and their needs are not being met.

All 320 patients were assigned to one of 3 groups randomly:

1. Yoga
2. PT
3. Education

The yoga group was assigned a 75-minute class on a weekly basis. The student-to-teacher ratio was low. The classes started with a brief introduction to yoga philosophy. Participants were provided with mats to do the simple yoga poses. The patients were also provided with a DVD to practice poses at home.

Physical Therapy for Back Pain Relief

Some patients faced difficulty in enacting the poses, especially those who were obese. However, the classes went really slow and gentle. Initially, it was about getting people on the floor, helping them get knees to chest, or in a table position.

The PT group had one-on-one 60-minute 15 different sessions that also included aerobic exercise. A comprehensive book on back pain was given to the education group. PT and yoga sessions continued for 12 weeks. Thereafter, these patients were followed for 52 weeks. The patients in both the yoga and PT groups were also randomly assigned to maintenance.

This study revealed that yoga and PT groups reported about the same function. Saper observed that yoga and PT are quite similar. The difference with education is very high. The results for pain scores were similar. A similar number of yoga and PT subjects reported “very improved” and “very satisfied,” results.

According to Saper, yoga proved to be very safe, with just mild, temporary worsening of back pain. Adherence rate was low. The director believes that larger studies are required to develop newer, better ways to ensure that people stick to their guidelines. In a future study, researchers will analyze the costs involved with yoga.

M. Catherine Bushnell, Ph.D., of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health says there’s evidence that yoga has a positive impact on the brain. According to Bushnell, the time period for which a person has done yoga and positive brain changes are closely related.

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