Suffering from back pain? You might want to try some downward dog.
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that yoga could actually be as effective in treating back pain as physical therapy. Popular Science reports that this knowledge could eventually convince doctors to prescribe yoga and insurance companies to cover it.
“I’d tell my friends to use yoga for back pain,” senior author, Janice Weinberg, a professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health, said in a statement to The New York Times. “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.”
Popular Science reports that the study, headed by researchers at Boston Medical Center, involved 320 adults with chronic back pain. One group was given literature about handling their pain, the other received physical therapy, and the third attended 12 weeks of yoga classes. The researchers found that the group in physical therapy and the yoga group had similar results.
According to Popular Science, gentle poses like cat and cow, child’s pose, and triangle were the key to back pain relief. Study author Rob Saper said in a statement to NPR that more studies on this subject could make yoga a legitimate medical recommendation.
“Maybe yoga should be considered as a potential therapy that can be more widely disseminated and covered [by insurance],” he said.
In an accompanying editorial written by doctors Douglas G. Chang and Stefan G. Kertesz, the authors point out that while the results of this study are promising, the complex nature of chronic back pain generally requires a combination of treatments, according to a report by CNBC. Someone who was involved in a car accident, for example, might not benefit as much from yoga as someone with a less serious back issues. The three most common causes of these accidents are drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving, often causing major spinal injury.
“In light of the complex factors affecting both diagnosis and outcomes in chronic [lower back pain], any single treatment is unlikely to prove helpful to all or even most patients,” Chang and Kertesz write.