WEDNESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- For primary care patients with chronic low back pain, yoga is as effective as conventional stretching exercises and more effective than a self-care book for improving function and reducing symptoms, according to a study published online Oct. 24 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Karen J. Sherman, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, and colleagues investigated whether yoga is more effective than conventional stretching exercises or a self-care book for 228 primary care patients with chronic low back pain. A total of 92, 91, and 45 patients were randomly assigned to 12 weekly classes of yoga, conventional stretching exercises, or a self-care book, respectively. Participants were assessed at baseline, and at six, 12, and 26 weeks by interviewers unaware of treatment group. The primary outcomes were back-related functional status and bothersomeness of pain at 12 weeks.
The investigators found that the 12-week outcomes for the yoga group were significantly better than those for the self-care group, after adjustments for baseline values (mean difference for function, −2.5; mean difference for symptoms, −1.1). Function for the yoga group remained significantly improved at 26 weeks (mean difference, −1.8). At no point during the study was yoga found to be superior to conventional stretching exercises.
"Physical activity involving stretching, regardless of whether it is achieved using yoga or more conventional exercises, has moderate benefits in individuals with moderately impairing low back pain," the authors write.