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Yoga for Back Pain and Spinal Injuries

We're always looking for more data to add to our index, so if you know of a yoga research study that you don't see here, pass it along to us. Send relevant scholarly articles to research@yogaalliance.org. Yoga Alliance® supports the continued research on yoga’s benefits, and we will continue to update the page with more research on more health topics. 

Last updated: July 19, 2017

Back Pain & Spinal Injuries

Yoga Alliance recommends that any individuals with health concerns consult with a qualified health care practitioner to discuss whether yoga is right for them, but we are aware that yoga can be used in the medical treatment context by appropriately qualified and licensed healthcare practitioners. Yoga Alliance credentials do not serve as qualifications for the diagnosis or treatment of health conditions.

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“Yoga appears to raise BMD [bone mineral density] in the spine and the femur safely.”
– Lu et al (2015),  Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation


“The present results suggest that yoga may be an effective treatment for CLBP [chronic low back pain] and stress although the results should be confirmed with a large-scale randomized controlled trial.”
– Cho et al (2015), European Journal of Integrative Medicine


“ The findings showed [mindfulness-based stress reduction] was effective in reduction of pain severity and the [chronic lower back pain] patients who practiced 8 sessions [of] meditation reported significantly lower pain than patients who only received usual medical care.“
– Banth et al (2015), International Journal of Yoga


“Pilates and yoga group exercise interventions with appropriate modifications and supervision were safe and equally effective for decreasing disability and pain compared with the control group for individuals with mild-to-moderate [chronic neck pain].“
– Dunleavy et al (2015), Physiotherapy


“The results show a significant increase in flexibility, indicating 6 weeks of single session yoga training may be effective in increasing erector spinae and hamstring flexibility.“
– Amin et al (2014), Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies


“Asymmetrically strengthening the convex side of the primary curve with daily practice of the side plank [yoga] pose held for as long as possible for an average of 6.8 months significantly reduced the angle of primary scoliotic curves.” 
– Fishman et al (2014), Global Advances in Health and Medicine


“Training programs can be developed by choosing particular poses to target specific core muscles for addressing low back pain and declines in performance. The High plank, Low plank and Downward facing dog poses are effective for strengthening external oblique abdominis, Chair and Warrior 1 poses for targeting gluteus maximum, and Chair and Halfway lift poses for strengthening longissimus thoracis. And these three muscles could be strengthened by the Upward facing dog pose.”
– Ni et al (2014), Complementary Therapies in Medicine


“The primary finding of the present study was yoga intervention decreased back page, accompanied by increasing serum [brain-derived neurotrophic factor] level in premenopausal women with chronic low back pain. Subjects in the yoga group demonstrated a significant decrease in back pain intensity…and a significant increase in flexibility after 12-week yoga intervention whereas back pain increased…in the control group. ”
– Lee et al (2014), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine


“Yoga is shown to have a greater effect on range of motion at the shoulder and hip than static stretching in a healthy population. With further positive results, yoga may prove to have an important therapeutic role with joint restrictions.“ 
– Sager et al (2014), International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation


“Evidence suggests that yoga is an acceptable and safe intervention, which may result in clinically relevant improvements in pain and functional outcomes associated with a range of [musculoskeletal conditions]. Yoga interventions resulted in a clinically significant improvement in functional outcomes in mild-to-moderate [low back pain (LBP)] and fibromyalgia. Yoga significantly improved pain in [osteoarthristis, rheumatoid arthritis] and mild-to-severe LBP.”
Ward et al (2013), Musculoskeletal Care


“A 9-week yoga intervention improved pain and neck-related disability for at least 12 months after completion. Sustained yoga practice seems to be the most important predictor of long-term effectiveness.”
Cramer et al (2013), Pain Medicine


“In a…population with moderate to severe chronic low back pain, 12 weeks of once-weekly yoga classes were similarly effective as twice-weekly classes. In conjunction with the convenience and lower expense of once-weekly classes, these data provide clinicians practical information about the minimum number of classes per week they should recommend to patients interested in trying yoga for their chronic low back pain.”
– Saper et al (2013), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine


“Compared to usual care [for chronic low back pain], yoga demonstrated improved self-efficacy, decreased sleep disturbances due to back pain, and increased hours of back exercise in the past week.”
– Sherman et al (2013), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine


“On the basis of this trial, 12 weekly group classes of specialized yoga are likely to be a cost-effective intervention for treating patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain.”
– Chuang et al (2012)Spine: An International Journal for the Study of the Spine


“…[Muscular Chain Therapy], using modified yoga positions, is an efficient technique in terms of improving posture, reducing pain, and solving related musculoskeletal problems.“
– Pimentel do Rosário (2012), Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy


“Seven days intensive residential Yoga program [consisting of asana, pranayama, meditation, counseling, and yoga philosophy lectures] reduces pain, anxiety, and depression, and improves spinal mobility in patients with [chronic low back pain] more effectively than physiotherapy exercises.”
– Tekur eta l (2012) Complementary Therapies in Medicine


“…offering a 12-week yoga program to adults with chronic or recurrent low back pain led to greater improvements in back function than usual care for up to 12 months. Yoga seems to be a safe and effective activity that clinicians could consider recommending for patients with a history of low back pain.”
– Tilbrook et al (2011), Annals of Internal Medicine


“Yoga classes were more effective than a self-care book, but not more effective than stretching classes, in improving function and reducing symptoms due to chronic low back pain, with benefits lasting at least several months.”
– Sherman et al (2011), JAMA Internal Medicine


“These findings strengthen evidence that self-efficacy is associated with [chronic low back pain] outcomes, especially in individuals selecting physical therapy. At baseline, yoga participants were [significantly less disabled, had higher health status, greater pain self-efficacy, and less average pain bothersomeness] compared with PT [physical therapy] participants.”
– Evans et al (2010), PM & R: The Journal of Injury, Function and Rehabilitation


“A week long residential intensive yoga program increased the [quality of life] and spinal flexibility better than physical therapy exercises for [patients with chronic lower back pain with high stress levels.]“
– Tekur et al (2010), International Journal of Yoga


“Yoga relaxation through [the yogic relaxation mind sound resonance technique] adds significant complimentary benefits to conventional physiotherapy for [common neck pain] by reducing pain, tenderness, disability and state anxiety and providing improved flexibility.”
– Yogitha et al (2010), International Journal of Yoga


“The decrease in flexicurve kyphosis angle in the yoga treatment group shows that hyperkyphosis is remediable, a critical first step in the pathway to treating or preventing this condition.”
Greendale et al (2009), Journal of the American Geriatrics Society


“[Iyengar yoga] improves functional disability, pain intensity, and depression in adults with [Chronic Low Back Pain]. There was also a clinically important trend for the yoga group to reduce their pain medication usage compared to the control group.”
– Williams et al (2009), Spine: An International Journal for the Study of the Spine


“The results of this trial suggest that yoga is an effective treatment for chronic low back pain. The benefits persisted 14 weeks after the end of classes and did not appear to be caused by co-interventions or medications.”
– Sherman et al (2005), Annals of Internal Medicine


“. . .this pilot study suggests that the use of yoga among women with hyperkyphosis is safe and acceptable and may produce better posture.”
Greendale et al (2002), American Journal of Public Health


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