Study Shows Yoga and Physical Therapy Both Helpful for Low Back Pain

When you’re suffering with back pain that doesn’t go away within a few days, it’s a good idea to go to a spine specialist to find out the best way to treat it. Though many people are afraid that a doctor is going to automatically suggest surgery, there are several conservative measures that a spine surgeon may recommend before considering an operation. Included among these are physical therapy and yoga.

Though people tend to assume that the two approaches are very different and that P.T. is somehow superior to a practice that can be followed on YouTube or Instagram, a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates otherwise. Researchers found that both yoga and physical therapy are equally effective when it comes to increasing mobility and reducing pain.

The research involved over 300 adults who were suffering from chronic low back pain. The group was racially diverse and mainly low income, and their experience showed that no matter which practice was pursued, after 12 weeks of either they were less likely to still be taking pain medication. This is an extremely important finding: it is estimated that one in every ten adults in the United States suffers from chronic low back pain, and many of them are of lower socioeconomic status who may not have access to physical therapy services. Though yoga has always been offered as a therapy for back pain sufferers, physical therapy is the non-medication offering that most frequently prescribed by physicians. For those who do not have insurance to cover this protocol, the study offers a helpful solution for pain relief.

The study was conducted by researchers from Boston Medical Center. They divided the 320 volunteers into a variety of regimens: some were offered weekly yoga classes for a 12-weeke period, some were offered 15 individual physical therapy appointments, and some were given educational material on relieving back pain. All were then put through a maintenance phase and were asked to keep in touch with the researchers for a period of a year. After the study was over the scientist found that there was no difference in effect between yoga and physical therapy — the groups that took yoga classes had the same improvements in pain and function that the group who’d had physical therapy did. This led them to conclude that yoga provides low-income pain sufferers with an effective option that does not require taking off work to make an appointment or paying costly fees out of pocket.

Speaking of the results, yoga therapist Sol Soloncha said, “Yoga is something a person can do using their own resources of mind, breath and body to directly confront the dragons of pain and suffering. An effective program of yoga therapy can be tailored for the individual to suit specific goals, interests and medical conditions.”

As more patients search for conservative approaches that do not include pain medication, both yoga and physical therapy offer real solutions. To find out what the best answer is for you, contact our office to make an appointment today.

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