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Studies: Yoga Can Relieve Chronic Back Pain?


Doctors are studying the effects of yoga on chronic back pain
Back pain is a very common illness around the world. The pain can become so severe that it affects the execution of daily tasks or even makes them impossible. Researchers have now found that yoga can lead to health benefits in the treatment of chronic back pain.

Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and other research institutes discovered in a so-called meta-analysis of twelve randomized controlled studies that yoga can help treat chronic pain. The doctors published the results of their review in the journal "Cochrane Library".

Back pain is widespread in Germany
In Germany alone, back pain is responsible for about every tenth day of absence from work. About 80 percent of Germans suffer from short-term back pain in the course of their lives. A large proportion of those affected are even affected by back problems in the long term.

Back pain causes several million emergency rooms
The current review examines the health benefits of practicing yoga for so-called non-specific chronic back pain. The data showed that back pain alone was responsible for 2.06 million visits to the United States emergency room between 2004 and 2008, the researchers say.

When does the pain start to become chronic?
Some people quickly recover from their back pain. For other sufferers, these complaints can last up to three months or even longer, the experts explain. If the pain persists for more than three months, it is considered chronic back pain.

Options for treating non-specific back pain are limited
Chronic back pain can be caused, for example, by diseases such as radiculopathy (a common neurological disorder). Sometimes a so-called spinal stenosis is also responsible for the pain. In most cases, however, the cause of chronic back pain remains unknown, the authors say. In such cases, the pain is considered unspecific. The options for treating chronic non-specific back pain are unfortunately limited. Paracetamol or anti-inflammatory drugs are often used for this.

Researchers examined the data from 1,080 subjects
The new review uses the results of existing research to investigate the effectiveness of yoga for the treatment of chronic, non-specific pain in the lower back, the scientists explain. The meta-analysis used the data from various studies from the USA, India and Great Britain. These included a total of 1,080 participants between the ages of 34 and 48.

The safety of the results was rated as moderate
The studies were mostly based on self-assessment and self-reporting. For this reason, the researchers reduced the level of certainty of the results to moderate in their meta-analysis. If studies were inaccurate and contradictory, the reliability of their results in the evaluation was reduced even further, the experts say.

Slight improvement in back pain noted
Overall, the reviewers found that yoga improves motor functions and reduces back pain in the first six to twelve months. However, this improvement was relatively small. The reviewers indicated that the effect is not large enough to be considered clinically significant. More extensive studies with a longer period of medical observation are necessary to assess the long-term health effects of yoga, the authors explain.

The studies analyzed had short follow-up examinations
Our results suggest that yoga exercises may improve the symptoms of lower back pain slightly, says lead author Susan Wieland. However, the results come from studies with short follow-up examinations. At the moment, evidence of the positive effects of yoga in helping people with chronic back pain is of low to moderate quality, adds Wieland. The yoga exercises in the studies were also developed specifically for back pain, and people should also remember that the yoga classes were led by experienced practitioners in the reviewed studies, the expert adds. The effect of yoga training at home on back pain cannot therefore be derived from the study. (as)

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