Can yoga help relieve back pain?

Yoga is better known as a tool for relaxation and strengthening the body. The effects of individual exercises on reducing back pain have been less studied, especially in religiously conservative monotheistic societies that look at the esoteric aspect of yoga with particular caution. Therefore, a recent article co-authored by the author of these lines presents the reseach results that show the effects of individual yoga poses.

Some studies have shown that yoga can help relieve stress, pain in the carpal tunnel, pain caused by arthritis and lumbar problems. However, research results are quite contradictory. For example, an experiment conducted in the United States involved a group of medical students who tried out poses designed to reduce stress and improve physical condition. Contrary to expectations, stress increased while physical quality of life and health satisfaction decreased. Other studies have shown that the reduction in pain was not significant compared to the impact of physiotherapy. This leads to the question of whether pain is reduced due to a psychological disposition, or maybe simply incorrect postures are used.

An international team of researchers conducted an experiment in Pakistan. In an Islamic state, where yoga is not popular because of religious beliefs and where the population knows little about it. Unlike in neighbouring India.

Volunteers with back pain (aged from 30 to 77) practiced different poses (asanas) under the guidance of yoga specialists. The other group additionally participated in an awareness training workshop to motivate its participants to take part in yoga classes.

At the end of the experiment, the participants in the first group felt slightly higher than average relief (mean score 4 out of 5), and the pawanmukut pose was more effective than vakkar. There was no significant difference in the effect of such postures as angsanchalan, bhujang, market, marjari, settuband. The effectiveness of pawanmuktasana is associated with the fact that it strengthens the abdominal muscles, the back, increases flexibility, and improves blood circulation in the pelvic area.

The results for the second group revealed the existence of a psychological effect, although not all of the exercises were used. Similarly, other studies have found that meditation can help reduce pain, but cognitive therapy is more effective than meditation.

This study did not examine the influence of comorbidities on the outcomes, nor the strength of religiosity. In addition, most of the participants were male.

The study was published in the scientific journal International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine. The link to the article: Ahmed, P., Ahmad, N., Adhlok, V., Ashraf, M., & Vveinhardt, J. (2024). A Practical and Analytical Study of Yoga Therapy Techniques for Back Pain. International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine, 15(1), 63–69. https://doi.org/10.47552/ijam.v15i1.4358