WASHINGTON — People who took yoga classes for chronic lower back pain experienced more lifestyle improvements and better overall health than those who sought a doctor's advice, said a study published Monday.
The research in the US journal the Annals of Internal Medicine was led by scientists at the University of York, included more than 300 people and was described as the largest of its kind to date in the United Kingdom.
Researchers derived their study samples from a group of people who were already seeing a doctor for chronic or recurrent back pain. They assigned 156 of them to yoga classes and left 157 to the care of their physicians.
After three months, the yoga group reported they "were able to undertake 30 percent more activities compared with those in the usual care group," said the study.
The main advantage appeared to be having more confidence to perform daily tasks such as "walking more quickly, getting dressed without help or standing up for longer periods of time," and not necessarily pain relief, it said.
Those taking yoga reported slightly less pain compared to the usual care group, but the difference was of "marginal statistical significance," the researchers said.
The data adds to a series of studies on how yoga may improve health. A study published earlier this month in the US journal Archives of Internal Medicine found yoga and stretching alleviated back pain more than reading a self-help manual.
Other studies out this year have suggested yoga can lower stress and improve quality of life among breast cancer patients, as well as cut irregular heartbeat episodes in half among cardiac patients.
The study authors said the findings are important because 80 percent of people in the United Kingdom suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, with few effective treatments.
"Back pain is an extremely common and costly condition. Exercise treatment, although widely used and recommended, has only a small effect on back pain," said lead investigator David Torgerson.
"Our results showed that yoga can provide both short and long-term benefits to those suffering from chronic or recurrent back pain, without any serious side-effects."