The Benefits and Limitations of Yoga for Back Pain

Young people do yoga indoors

According to one study published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga could potentially be as effective as conventional therapy for treating adults with chronic or recurring low back pain. This could be big news for patients who may be uninsured or do not have the means to afford ongoing conventional therapy.


313 participants who reported chronic back pain were asked to take a twelve-week yoga course or twelve weeks of physical training and report their back pain for the next 52 weeks. Although adherence was low, which is a problem in its own right for ongoing back pain management, the results did show similar levels of satisfaction and reduction in lower back pain. 50% had a clinical response, for example, and patients were able to reduce their medication by 20%.


However, it’s important to keep in mind that the study was done on patients who did not have spinal stenosis or other physiological issues that would require more extensive medical intervention. In addition to that, researchers for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health also pointed out that the participants followed an intensive, carefully designed series of courses. A trip to the yoga studio once a week or practicing at home wouldn’t suffice.


No matter the cause or severity of the back pain, it’s important first to speak with a physician to determine what the best course of treatment would be. If it’s minor, he or she might recommend rest, stretches, or medication. However, more severe cases may be referred to a complex spine surgeon like James K Kaufman, M.D., who could provide additional testing and offer the best course of treatment to address the symptoms.

Could Better Sleep Mean Less Aches and Back Pain?

There’s no question that adequate sleep is crucial to long-term health. Chronic sleeplessness doubles the risk of mortality from any condition. It can cause an individual to gain weight, increase the likelihood of depression, dull one’s memory, and even lead to poor decision-making. Sleep is an essential part of life as it helps clear metabolic waste products, restores the immune system, and processes memories. Those who get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night are the ones most likely to enjoy overall well-being when all other risk factors like obesity and smoking are removed.

What Is the Link between Poor Sleep and Back Pain?

Back pain and poor sleep have a rather strong relationship. If someone is experiencing back pain or some other form of pain in the body, it can be expected that he or she will have much more difficulty falling asleep. In addition to that, a lack of sleep mitigates key restorative functions that can increase the likelihood of pain. One study from researchers at Keele University showed that non-refreshing sleep (sleep where you wake up still tired) was the biggest indicator of widespread pain. Participants in the study who reported poor sleeping tendencies had the greatest likelihood of pain development in the back and other parts of the body.

What Can Patients Do to Improve Their Sleep?

Because sleep is so crucial to reduce the risk of chronic conditions and widespread pain, everyone must pay special attention to how they approach sleep. First and foremost, this means establishing a good sleep environment. An optimal sleep setting will feature slightly cooler temperatures and little to no light or sound. Secondly, individuals should develop an appropriate sleep routine to signal to the body that it is time to go to bed. Finally, poor sleep behavior should be mended as quickly as possible. Bad sleep habits include watching television in bed, performing stressful activities late at night or eating right before bed.

If one does find that back pain is causing sleep deprivation, a visit to a spine specialist like James K Kaufman MD is necessary to rule out underlying conditions and determine the best course of treatment. A spine specialist can offer a number of treatment options, including medical intervention or lifestyle changes like improving one’s sleep. Whatever the cause for the back pain, a spine specialist will likely recommend optimizing sleep to reduce the likelihood of pain or aggravating an ongoing condition.