Proof that yoga can HELP BACK PAIN
80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some time in their lives. Back pain costs the NHS approximately £1.37 billion and the UK
economy £15.84 billion due to lost days off work and in most working areas it is the main reason for absenteeism. 75% of acute back pain patients return to their GPs within 12 months and are likely to become chronic cases.
So how can Yoga help to alleviate and prevent back pain?
Yoga can address back pain generally, through prevention, and directly with attention to the specific cause of existing pain. Paradoxically, for back pain, prevention constitutes cure. Lower back pain will occur and reoccur where there is lack of activity and/or mobility to the area. The
results are stiff muscles and joints and weakness, which are the main causes of chronic back pain. Yoga stops back pain from becoming chronic in eight ways: stretching muscles to reduce spasm and increase flexibility, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing range of motion (so you are less likely to hurt yourself in everyday activities), sharpening focus, heightening self-awareness and producing calm. It also improves balance and agility. Yoga stretches tense or shortened muscles, which, over just a few sessions, will gradually begin to relax. A relaxed muscle can stretch further.
Where is the proof?
In collaboration with the British Wheel of Yoga the University of York carried out pioneering research in 2011 to develop a safe and effective package for lower back pain. This research was funded by Arthritis Research UK. Researchers recruited 313 patients from 39 different GPs. All patients had a history of back pain. A 12-week yoga programme was offered. Compared with the usual care offered by the GP – pain killers or referrals to other professionals - yoga brought about a 30% improvement on people’s function and benefits were maintained for a year. On every outcome measure at each point the yoga group did better than those following the usual GP care. It is more effective than physio exercises, chiropractic, osteopathy, manipulation and exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy and six one-to-one Alexander technique lessons.
When Yoga is NOT suitable.
You should not embark on a Yoga programme if you are in severe pain which never goes away or you are suffering from any of these symptoms: difficulty passing or controlling urine; numbness around your back passage, genitals or inner thighs; numbness, pins and needles or weakness in both legs, unsteadiness on your feet. If you have any of these symptoms you should see your doctor immediately.
To download the free paper on the research carried out at York University go to: