Yoga vs stretching for low back pain

Small studies suggest that yoga might have benefits.

Researchers at Group Health Research Institute, in Seattle, Washington, studied whether yoga is more effective than conventional stretching exercises or a self-care book for primary care patients with chronic low back pain.

First, the details.

  • 228 adults with chronic low back pain were randomly assigned to a treatment group for 12 weekly classes.
    • Yoga
    • Conventional stretching exercises
    • Self-care book
  • Back-related functional status (modified Roland Disability Questionnaire, a 23-point scale) and bothersomeness of pain (an 11-point numerical scale) at 12 weeks were recorded.
  • Outcomes were assessed at the start and at 6, 12, and 26 weeks by interviewers unaware of treatment group.

And, the results.

  • 12-week outcomes for yoga group were significantly superior to the self-care group.
  • At 26 weeks, function for the yoga group remained significantly superior.
  • Yoga was not superior to conventional stretching exercises at any time.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Yoga classes were more effective than a self-care book, but not more effective than stretching classes, in improving function and reducing symptoms due to chronic low back pain, with benefits lasting at least several months.”

1/9/12 19:58 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.