Sunday, November 20, 2022

Is Yoga Helpful For Low Back Pain?

Please let me be clear, I have nothing against anyone doing yoga or any yoga instructors. I'm just sharing what I read from a published Cochrane review.

This latest Cochrane review that was just published 2 days ago, evaluated whether yoga was beneficial or harmful for treatment of non specific low back pain. Review articles from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews are highly respected and trusted.

The review wanted to find out if yoga helps improve function (getting dressed, walking or housework), quality of life and pain associated with low back pain. Medical databases searched for randomized controlled trials of yoga compared to sham (fake) yoga, no treatment, any other treatment and yoga added to other treatment.

Altogether 21 trials with 2223 participants (mostly women in their 40's or 50's) were found. 10 trials from USA, 5 from India, 2 form UK and 1 each from Crotia, Germany, Sweden and Turkey.

10 studies compared yoga to no exercise control group which received usual education and were put on a waiting list for yoga. 6 studies compared yoga to back-focused exercise or similar core exercise programs.  5 studies compared yoga, no exercise and qigong.

At 3 months, there was low to moderate evidence that yoga was slightly better than no exercise in improving back function and pain, although the difference were not sufficiently important to the person with low back pain

There was low quality evidence for better clinical improvement with yoga while there was moderate quality evidence for a slight improvement in both physical (able to be active) and mental (emotional problems) quality of life.  Evidence was of very low quality for helping depression. In addition there was moderate quality evidence that there was little or no difference between yoga and other types of exercise in improving back function and pain.

Increased low back pain was the most commonly reported 'harmful' reaction and there were no reported cases of serious side effects. There was low quality evidence that the risk of harm was higher with yoga than no exercise and back-focused exercise.

No studies comparing yoga to sham yoga were found, so there is no evidence how yoga would affect low back pain if people did not know they were doing yoga. All the participants knew they were doing yoga and this may influence their interpretation of whether their back pain has changed.

There you have it, quite different from what you have been told, heard or read. Our goal is to help patients confidently take up different movement, postures, physical activity, social and work engagement so you can can a healthy and pain free life.

There are free educational resources to support these processes if you do have low back pain and have not seen us in our clinics.

You can watch this Youtube video or visit this site for more details. This will help reduce stress and build self sufficiency for you to better self manage your LBP and make better informed choices about your care.

Our spine is strong, robust and adaptable. A campaign to change this may encounter resistance even in the physiotherapy and ergonomic professions as their business model may not be in line with what we now know to be best practice for managing low back pain.

So here's my take, whether it's yogapilatesstationary cycling or any exercise, it is your choice, as long as you keep doing it consistently, it will help your low back pain. Find an exercise you enjoy and keep at it. 


Wieland LS, Skoetz N, Pilkington K et al (2022). Yoga For Chronic Non-specific Low Back Pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 11. Art. No : CD010671. DOI: 10.1002/1465.CD010671

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