Yoga for Chronic Pain

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 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

Chronic Pain

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.

Back to Index

“Based on our study, it is feasible to implement yoga paired with self-management as a method of addressing chronic pain in a clinical setting. For successful implementation, it is important to consider both barriers and facilitators.”
–Waddington et al (2017), Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice


“A majority of participants (n=19, 61%) reported that they were still practicing yoga 6 months after the intervention program. . . Additionally, the participants reported less OA [osteoarthritis] pain, increased physical endurance, and more relaxation.”
–Cheung et al (2017), Global Advances in Health and Medicine



“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 CNP [chronic neck pain].”
–Dunleavy et al (2016), Physiotherapy



“The results suggest that an 8-week Hatha Yoga program improves pain-related factors and psychological experiences in individuals admitted to a rehabilitation and complex continuing care hospital.”
–Curtis et al (2016), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“We conclude that yoga may reduce immediate anxiety and joint pain in patients with CF [cystic fibrosis].”
–McNamara et al (2016), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“Hence yoga practice improves hand grip strength in normal persons and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, though the magnitude of improvement varies with factors such as gender and age.”
– Dash et al (2001), Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology



“It concluded that YP [yogic package] is a significant means to reduce intensity of RA [rheumatoid arthritis].”
– Singh et al (2011), Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology



“Together, these findings suggest that regular and long-term yoga practice improves pain tolerance in typical North Americans by teaching different ways to deal with sensory inputs and the potential emotional reactions attached to those inputs leading to a change in insular brain anatomy and connectivity.”
– Villemure et al (2013), Cerebral Cortex



“ 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 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



“MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) is safe and feasible for adults with migraines. …Secondary outcomes demonstrated this intervention had a beneficial effect on headache duration, disability, self-efficacy, and mindfulness.”
– Wells et al (2014), Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain



“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



“Positive effects of yoga have been shown in persons with mental-health problems, eating disorders and irritable bowel syndrome. There is considerable evidence that mind-body interventions have mild to moderate effects on physical symptoms, psychological functioning and [quality of life], and may be particularly helpful for children coping with acute pain…chronic abdominal pain…and mental-health problems.”
– Hartmann et al (2012), Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies



“…[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 Rosario (2012), Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy



“Findings based on…[randomized clinical trials] available in the literature suggest that [complementary and alternative medicine] exercises—Tai Chi, qigong, and yoga—demonstrate considerable promise in the management of [osteoarthritis] symptoms.”
– Chyu et al (2011), Arthritis



“A small, but growing body of randomized clinical trials suggests that yoga may have promise for persistent pain conditions… yoga could be used as a tool to help patients better address the biological, social, and psychological aspects of persistent pain.”
– Wren et al (2011)Pain: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain



“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



“[The study objective was to] explore the experience of…yoga and its relationship to…pain experience. The findings suggest that patients who benefit from yoga may do so in part because yoga enables changes in cognitions and behaviours towards pain.”
Tul et al (2010), Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences



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



“The study demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency and associated clinical features, in patients treated with yoga over a period of 3 months.”
– John et al (2007), Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain








Yoga Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)(6). Yoga Alliance Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). This website refers to the two organizations as "Yoga Alliance." Copyright 2018 Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance, the Yoga Alliance logo, RYS, RYT, and YACEP are registered marks with the USPTO and other jurisdictions.
Copyright 2019 by Yoga Alliance