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A study finally proves yoga can help ease back pain

yoga, back
(Photo: Flickr/odysseyfx)

A new study that looked at the usefulness of yoga compared to stretching in easing back pain found that yoga was effective in reducing pain—but not more so than simple stretching.

The study, published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, randomly assigned 228 adults with chronic low back pain to practice yoga for 12 weeks, engage in “conventional stretching exercises,” or use a “self-care book.”

Both yoga and stretching were found to significantly improve function and reduce symptoms, but yoga didn’t outpace stretching like researchers thought it would.

One probable reason? The stretch classes they gave participants sounded a lot like…yoga.

“The stretching classes used 15 different stretching exercises, including stretches of the hamstrings and hip flexors and rotators,” reported Science Daily. “Each was held for a minute and repeated once, for a total of 52 minutes of stretching. Strengthening exercises were also included.” We were not able ask the researchers whether those strengthening exercises resembled chaturangas.

While the fact that yoga can help with back pain is not huge news (it’s pretty obvious if you practice it), the study did mark a major milestone. According to Science Daily, it was the largest randomized trial of yoga to date. It’s about time yoga got a proper seat at the research table.