I’m pretty positive that every person reading this has had low back pain at one point or another. Maybe not chronically. Maybe the pain isn’t excruciating. Or maybe, unfortunately, low back pain is something you’ve been dealing with for awhile. Bluntly, any pain at all affects daily life and I am truly sorry that you are going through this.
I took up yoga during a period of my life that I was having horrible muscle spasms in my low back every time I attempted to go for a run. It was debilitating. Fortunately, yoga helped me overcome this. Obviously there are many causes for low back pain with two common reasons being poor posture and core strength. Mine was personally caused by tight hip flexors from sitting in a low stool without back support while treating people in the clinic. While I’m glad yoga helped me and many others overcome low back pain, lately I’ve been wondering what current research is saying about yoga and low back pain.
Annuals of Internal Medicine, which is published by the American College of Physicians, published a study in 2018 comparing the treatment effects of yoga, physical therapy, and use of an informational book on low back pain1. Not surprisingly, back pain improved with each method after a period of 12 weeks. Though yoga and physical therapy treatments also resulted in meaningful improvement in function and reduced likeliness of using pain medications. This part surprised me though- there was no significant difference in low back pain when comparing outcomes of yoga and physical therapy. Wait. What? No significant difference? That part was surprising to me! However, it is important to note that individuals in this study had nonspecific low back pain vs a clinical diagnosis. Although my education and background as an occupational therapist may be biasing my opinion, I believe physical therapy services are invaluable for individuals dealing with chronic low back pain vs standalone yoga. But this study and many others demonstrate the value of yoga to help with low back pain.