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Stretching exercises and yoga work for back pain

Yoga classes and stretching exercises are equally effective in relieving chronic low back pain, a US study finds.

Researchers randomised 228 adults with chronic low back pain to either 12-weekly yoga classes, conventional stretching exercises or a self-care book.

Outcomes after 12 and 26 weeks were back-related function status, measured with a modified Roland Disability Questionnaire on a 23-point scale, and reports of how ‘bothersome' the pain was on an 11-point scale.

After 12 weeks, function scores for the yoga and stretching groups were an average of 2.5 points better than for the self-care group. Similarly, ‘bothersomeness' scores were an average of 1.1 lower. After 26 weeks, function scores were an average of 1.8 points better for the yoga and stretching groups.

Study leader Dr Karen Sherman, senior scientific investigator at the department of epidemiology, University of Washington in Seattle, said yoga and stretching were ‘reasonable' treatment options for this disorder, but cautioned: ‘Because yoga classes can vary enormously, clinicians are advised to recommend classes for beginners or classes that are therapeutically oriented.

‘Stretching classes should contain sufficient back and leg focused stretching.'

Arch Int Med. 2011 Online 24 October