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.