Yoga and lower back pain

Lower back pain is one of the most common reasons for absenteeism at work.

It costs the NHS millions of pounds every year providing treatment and costs the economy billions in lost productivity. Evidence from a newly published randomized trial, featured in the highly respected Annals of Internal Medicine, reports that Yoga works as well as physical therapy for relieving back pain.

The study included 320 people ages 18 to 64 with moderate and persistent low back pain. Researchers assigned them to either 12 weekly sessions with a yoga instructor, 15 sessions of physical therapy over 12 weeks, or education with a book and periodic newsletters about back pain therapy. They measured pain intensity and disability with well-validated questionnaires.

In both the yoga and physical therapy groups, approximately half the participants achieved reduced pain and disability, and roughly 50% reduced their drug use. Those in the education group did not do as well: about a fifth showed improved physical function, 14% found pain relief, and 25% reduced their use of pain medication.

The most encouraging finding is that people apparently liked yoga better than the physical therapy. Participants in the yoga group had the fewest drop outs.

“I’d tell my friends to use yoga for back pain,” said the senior author, Janice Weinberg, a professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health. “It is cost effective, it can be done at home or in group settings where there is social support, and it is also thought to have mental health benefits.”

These findings support the work of my friend Alison Trewhela. In 2001 Alison, in collaboration with the University of York conducted a ground-breaking study which demonstrated that yoga was as successful as physiotherapy in healing people with lower back pain. I trained with Alison to deliver the Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course that she developed for this study.

Learn more:

I’m teaching a workshop on Sunday 17th September at Clarity Yoga in St Albans. You can find out more information at

The workshop will start with simple backbends and progress through a range of techniques that will help you learn how to develop the correct strength and the appropriate alignment to really enjoy back bending.

Come along and find out how you can protect yourself from lower back pain and discover the tools you need to keep your spine healthy.

Do you have any back pain issues or questions? Send me a message or contact me to find out more.