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Yoga, Stretching May Ease Lower Back Pain

Study Shows Yoga or Intensive Stretching Are Effective Treatments for Chronic Lower Back Pain

Comparing Treatment for Lower Back Pain continued...

Researchers say the yoga and stretching classes emphasized the torso and legs. The type of yoga used in the study was called viniyoga, which adapts the principles of yoga for each individual and physical condition with modifications for people with physical limitations.

The stretching classes consisted of 15 different stretching exercises. Each stretch was held for a minute and repeated once, for a total of 52 minutes of stretching.

Researchers measured back-related function and chronic back pain symptoms at the start of the study and 6, 12, and 26 weeks after the study began.

At 12 weeks, the results showed that back-related function was better and chronic back pain symptoms reduced in people who took yoga or stretching classes compared with those who got the self-care book. These effects lasted at least six months.

Yoga vs. Stretching

"We found yoga classes more effective than a self-care book -- but no more effective than stretching classes," Sherman says. "In retrospect, we realized that these stretching classes were a bit more like yoga than a more typical exercise program would be."

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Timothy S. Carey, MD, MPH, of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, says this research provides strong evidence for stretching therapies in treating back pain.  

"Exercise is good for chronic low back pain, and more high-quality studies are needed to guide patients and health care providers in determining which types of physical treatments are most appropriate," Carey writes.

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