Boston University LogoScientists from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center are believed to have found that yoga could possibly be more effective than standard treatment for reducing chronic low back pain in minority populations.

Low back pain is known to be widespread in the United States thereby resulting in considerable disability and cost to society. Individuals from low-income, minority backgrounds with chronic low back pain (CLBP) may perhaps be more affected due to inequalities in access to treatment.

Even though many CLBP patients try to find relief from complementary therapies such as yoga, use of these methods seem to be less prevalent among minorities and individuals with lower incomes or less education.

Lead author Robert B. Saper, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of family medicine at BUSM and director of integrative medicine at Boston Medical Center said that, “Few studies of complementary therapies have targeted minority populations with low back pain. Our pilot study showed that yoga is well-received in these communities and may be effective for reducing pain and pain medication use.”

For the purpose of the study, BUSM scientists were observed to have recruited adults with CLBP from two community health centers that serve racially diverse, low-income neighborhoods of Boston. Further, the adults were randomly assigned to either a standardized 12-week series of hatha yoga classes or standard treatment including doctor’s visits and medicines.

As part of the study, the authors seem to have asked participants to state their average pain intensity for the preceding week, how their function is limited due to back pain, and how much pain medicine they are consuming. The yoga group was noted to have participated in 12 weekly 75-minute classes. Apparently, this class included postures, breathing techniques, and meditation and was taught by a team of registered yoga teachers.

In addition, each class was known to have only eight participants. Moreover, home practice for 30 minutes every day seems to have been strongly encouraged. Also, participants were presented with an audio CD of the class, a handbook describing and depicting the exercises, a yoga mat, strap, and block.

The findings of the study revealed that pain scores for the yoga participants seem to have decreased by one-third in contrast to the control group, which decreased by only 5 percent. The use of pain medicine in the control group appears to have not changed.

Yoga participants’ use of pain medicines was observed to have decreased by 80 percent. Also, improvement in function could perhaps have been greater for yoga participants but was not statistically noteworthy.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.