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A study funded by Arthritis Research UK, and completed jointly by the Universities of York and Manchester has discovered that those suffering from chronic lower back pain can experience significant improvements in function and confidence than those who undertook conventional therapy drug and lifestyle from their GP.
While the research was jointly led by the Universities of York and Manchester, research participants were recruited nationally from 39 GP practices throughout Cornwall, London, Manchester and York. Qualified Yoga instructors were recruited locally to conduct the sessions, and details of these instructors can be found on the Yoga Trial website listed below.
The research primarily focused on spinal function, and the ability of the back pain sufferers to be able to undertake specific physical activities without being limited by episodes of pain. On average, those participants who undertook the Yoga programme where able to undertake 30% more tasks than those who performed the conventional treatments.
Research participants performed a specific 12-week progressive Yoga programme and their back pain was measured throughout and beyond the trial using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire. A link to this questionnaire has been provided below.
313 people who were all receiving treatment for chronic or recurrent back pain were recruited for the study. These participants were divided into 2 groups; 156 participants undertook the 12-week group yoga programme and 157 participants were offered standard GP care.
The greatest improvements in lower back pain were observed at the end of the 3rd month, although it was evident that there were still significant improvements in the severity and frequency of lower back pain some 9 months after the Yoga programme had ceased. These results suggest therefore that performing a frequent and sustained programme of Yoga is likely to be the best approach for those suffering with lower back pain, whether chronic or recurrent.
Back trouble affects so many aspects of life. Our programme is designed so that people can learn how to relax and ease their back pain, gain confidence and strength, and avoid problems in the future. However Yoga has so much more to offer – our aim is for more and more people to achieve wellbeing in the longer term through Yoga practice.
Professor John Aplin from The University of Manchester’s School of Medicine, who is himself a Yoga practitioner and teacher, says “back trouble affects so many aspects of life. Our programme is designed so that people can learn how to relax and ease their back pain, gain confidence and strength, and avoid problems in the future. However, Yoga has so much more to offer – our aim is for more and more people to achieve wellbeing in the longer term through Yoga practice.”
Lower back pain is a common episodic condition that often presents irregularly. Around 80% of the UK population will suffer from episodes of back pain at some point in their life, and approximately 4.9 million days are lost each year as a result of the condition. Even with such prevalence, there is a real shortage of effective evidence-based remedies.
This study was not unique in the fact that it sought to test whether Yoga sessions could actually alleviate symptoms of lower back pain and improve physical function. What was however unique about this research programme was that it is one of a few studies that set out to measure the long-term effects of Yoga on lower back pain.
Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK Professor Alan Silman said “we’re delighted that our trial has shown that Yoga provides such positive benefits for people with chronic low back pain. This extremely common condition cannot be managed with painkillers alone and there is an urgent need to have non-drug therapies that sufferers can utilise in their own home. This trial is part of our larger commitment to seek self-help solutions to this common musculoskeletal problem. There are compelling explanations why yoga may be helpful and this trial lends powerful support to the wider use of this approach.”
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