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Study Finds Yoga Eases Lower Back Pain - 7/15/2011

According to a recent study reported by HealthDay News, people who practiced yogaexperienced a decrease in chronic lower back pain marked by less discomfort and feelings of depression in just six months.

In the study led by Kimberly Williams, a research assistant professor in the department of community medicine at West Virginia University, researchers divided 90 people, aged 23 to 66 and who had mild to moderate functional disability as a result of chronic lower back pain into two groups. One group did 90-minute sessions of Iyengar yoga twice a week for six months. The other group continued their normal routine of medical therapy or treatment.

Iyengar yoga, a form of hatha yoga that is becoming very popular in the United States, builds strength, flexibility and body alignment through a series of specific poses aided by props. These props help minimize the likelihood of injury or strain, and allow disabled and elderly participants to achieve beneficial positions that would be difficult on their own.

The study found that at the three-month and six-month marks, a greater proportion of those who had participated in yoga reported improvements in their pain and functionality than those who had not.

“I have found yoga and Pilates are great for chronic lower back pain,” Dr. Todd J. Albert, chairman of the department of orthopedics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia, said. “There is so much concentration on core strengthening, which is critical for people who have been de-conditioned. Lower back pain can cause people to stop exercising because of discomfort or fear of causing further injury to their back. The lack of activity can cause the back muscles to become ‘de-conditioned’ or weakened, setting up conditions for even more chronic pain.”

“Exercises such as yoga help reverse muscle weakness by strengthening the mid-section, including the back extensors, abdominals and gluteus, which are key for stabilizing the trunk and decreasing the load on the spine. Strengthening those muscles is like creating a brace around your torso,” Albert explained.

Perhaps the most surprising finding of the study was that the yoga participants also reported fewer symptoms of depression. “There is so much data excitingly pointing to the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga,” said Mary Lou Galantino, a professor of physical therapy at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “ I also believe there’s a social aspect to yoga. It can foster a sense of community and overarching well-being”. According to Galantino, the “holistic approach to one’s well being” through “proper breathing, postures, and meditation” is what alleviates depression for many people who are and are not experiencing chronic pain or a disability. 

Galantino’s one worry is that “if we westernize it and make it solely an athletic program, then you may not receive all of the benefits.” According to Williams’ research, this worry can be hushed at least for now, as her participants who practiced yoga consistently felt better both physically and mentally in a matter of months. 

There are many alternative ways to treat lower back pain, which represents between 20% and 25% of medical claims and exceeds $34 billion in annual direct medical costs, other than yoga, and even participants who do practice the ancient exercise should supplement it with other types treatment. Fortunately, there are numerous easy methods to help with nagging back pain all day including ergonomic office chairs, on-the-go Lumbar Supports, and state-of-the-art home massage chairs. However, if you are looking for real treatment of lower back pain instead of just alleviating it, a spine-straightening inversion table is what you need. All of these products, including an assortment ofexercise products from mats to props for Iyengar yoga, are available at Take your first step towards a painless, healthier, and perhaps even happier future. is a specialty retailer that provides high-end comfort solutions and ergonomic products for back pain and other physical conditions. The company offers pain relieving products for sleeping, working, exercising and relaxing including back and neck supports, specialty mattresses, office chairs, exercise and therapy equipment, recliners and massage chairs. Healthy Back sells recognizable name brands such as Herman Miller and Tempur-Pedic, but also represents smaller, specialized manufacturers offering a growing selection of house-branded goods. Healthy Back has 23 stores in 6 states across the United States, and also sells through its website and call center, making it the largest privately owned back care retailer.