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Pain relief with yoga practice

By Connie Wan, P.h.D | November 7th, 2018

Yoga has been touted for many health benefits.   In addition to building a stronger body, yoga has been shown by research to help with, among others, migraines, osteoporosis, balance and mobility issues, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, and ADHD.  If you are suffering from back pain or arthritis pain, did you know that a growing body of research shows that yoga may provide relief?

Back pain relief

Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States. Four out of five Americans will suffer from it at some point. Yoga appears to help. A 2013 meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials found “strong evidence for short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of yoga for chronic low-back pain.” In fact, since 2007, the American Society of Pain guidelines have urged physicians to consider recommending yoga to patients with long-term pain in the lower back.

In one study, published in the journal Spine, people with back pain who did two 90-minute sessions of yoga a week for 24 weeks experienced a 56% reduction in pain. They also had less disability and depression than people with back pain who received standard care, such as pain medication. In addition, the results suggested a trend toward the use of less pain medication in those who did yoga.

While it is tempting to stay in bed when your back hurts, doctors no longer recommend extended bed rest.  In general, the sooner you can get up and get moving, the faster you will recover. Yoga helps alleviate back pain by increasing flexibility and muscle strength. Relaxation, stress reduction, and better body awareness may also play a role.

Less arthritis pain

Exercise has been shown to help alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis; however, these symptoms can make it difficult to be active in the first place. Yoga offers a gentle form of exercise that helps improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles around painful joints.

In a 2014 study of 36 women with knee osteoarthritis, those who did yoga experienced significant improvements in their symptoms compared with women who didn’t do yoga. The yoga group had a 60-minute class one day a week and then practiced at home on several other days, averaging 112 minutes of yoga a week on their own. After eight weeks, they reported a 38% reduction in pain and a 35% reduction in stiffness, while the no-yoga group reported worsening symptoms.

People with rheumatoid arthritis may also benefit from yoga practice. In a 2015 study, women with rheumatoid arthritis reported improvements in their physical health, walking ability, pain levels, energy, and mood, and had significantly fewer swollen and tender joints, after doing two hour-long yoga classes a week for eight weeks.

Evidence is building for the benefits of yoga practice.  Roll up your yoga mat and get to a yoga studio today.  It’s good for you.

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