Yoga an effective tool for treating back pain among veterans

A regular yoga practice is one way of reducing chronic low back pain in veterans. — AFP pic
A regular yoga practice is one way of reducing chronic low back pain in veterans. — AFP pic

SAN DIEGO, July 27 — A new US study has found that yoga can be an effective way of treating back pain in American military veterans.

Carried out by Dr. Erik J. Groessl and his team from the VA San Diego Healthcare System, the study recruited 150 military veterans with chronic low back pain for one of the first studies to look into the effectiveness of yoga specifically in military veterans.

Military veterans face more health problems than the rest of the population and have higher rates of chronic pain, with the back the area of the body most commonly affected.

For the research one set of veterans were placed in a 12-week yoga program which they started immediately after being assigned to the group.

The remaining veterans started yoga classes only after a six-month delay.

The 12-week yoga program consisted of two 60-minute instructor-led yoga sessions per week, with participants also encouraged to practice yoga at home.

Participants were assessed at the start of the study, and six weeks, 12 weeks and six months later.

At 12 weeks the team found that both groups had reduced scores on a disability questionnaire and a 20 percent drop in opioid pain medication use.

However, six months later it was the yoga group that showed the biggest benefits, with disability scores for these participants continuing to drop but increasing for those participants in the delayed-treatment group.

The yoga participants also showed a decrease in pain intensity at all three of the assessment points, while those in the delayed-treatment group showed negligible changes.

Groessl noted that yoga could now be a potential non-drug treatment for chronic low back pain, commenting that, “To be able to reduce the reliance upon opioids and other medications with side effects, it is crucial to establish evidence showing mind-body practices like yoga provide benefit in both veterans and non-veterans with chronic pain.” 

The trial also confirms the findings from two prior randomized controlled trials with non-veterans, which also showed that yoga was an effective and safe treatment for chronic low back pain.

The team did note that like other non-drug treatments for chronic low back pain, yoga may not help everyone and may not completely eliminate pain. However, a long-term yoga practice at home can help to maintain a reduction in pain and disability.

The findings can be found published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. — AFP-Relaxnews

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