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Yoga benefits veterans with chronic low back pain, study shows

From News Medical - July 25, 2017

In a study including 150 military veterans with chronic low back pain, researcher Dr. Erik J. Groessl and his team from the VA San Diego Healthcare System found that veterans who completed a 12-week yoga program had better scores on a disability questionnaire, improved pain intensity scores, and a decline in opioid use.

Groessl is a researcher with the VA San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on July 20, 2017.

The study shows promise for non-drug treatment of chronic low back pain, said Groessl.

"To be able to reduce the reliance upon opioids and other medications with side effects, it is crucial to establish evidence showing mind-body practices like yoga provide benefit in both veterans and non-veterans with chronic pain," he said.

Veterans in the study who were randomized to the yoga group attended a 12-week yoga program immediately after randomization. Comparison participants were invited to attend the yoga intervention only after six months.

The 12-week yoga intervention consisted of two 60-minute instructor-led yoga sessions per week, with home practice sessions encouraged. The intervention was based on hatha yoga, which involves yoga postures and movement sequences, along with regulated breathing and mindfulness meditation.

Outcomes were assessed at the baseline, six weeks, 12 weeks and six months.

Both study groups had reductions in disability scores after 12 weeks. However, notable differences emerged at the six-month assessment, with scores continuing to drop in the yoga group but increasing in the delayed-treatment group.

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