Is chronic back pain keeping your spirits low? Perhaps a little ‘downward dog’ can pick them back up. A new study suggests that back pain sufferers may find relieve via yoga or “intensive” stretching.

Some 80% percent of adults deal with low back pain at some point in their lives and up to 8% will experience chronic suffering for three months or longer. Most people see primary care doctors for painkillers or muscle relaxants, while others end up visiting massage parlors, physical therapists and/or chiropractors for relief. Though working out and stretching have been long recommended by doctors as treatment for back pain, there have been few studies to support the effectiveness of physical activity in treating symptoms.

The Archives of Internal Medicine released this new study as a follow up to a 2005 trial that suggested that yoga is “slightly better” for treating back pain than a traditional comprehensive workout plan (strength training, aerobics and stretching). Researchers suspected that the meditative element in yoga could be a factor.

The study, which had 228 participants, found that those who engaged in stretching and yoga were twice as likely to decrease medication use than those who did neither and reported significantly more improvement in their back pain. However, there was no significant evidence that yoga was more effective than stretching.

Study authors warn that back pain sufferers may cause further damage if they attempt a new stretching or yoga routine without sufficient guidance from a health professional or instructor. So if you want to use these workouts to improve your back issues, don’t just look up “yoga moves” on YouTube…find a class and let someone who knows what they are doing help you!


“Find a class geared toward beginners, and an instructor who has experience working with and making adjustments for people with chronic pain,” Sherman recommends. “Go to class, practice at home, and see if it works. And if not, try another class.”


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