If you suffer from chronic back pain, it may be time to discover the benefits of yoga and meditation. In a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers compared several methods to treat low back pain and found that mindfulness practices could be the most effective solution.
Over a course of 26 and 52 weeks, 342 participants from 20 to 70 years old with chronic lower back pain were randomly chosen to take part in one of three treatments: mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or usual care. CBT patients received training in pain-coping and relaxation techniques "to change pain-related thoughts and behaviors." MBSR, on the other hand, did not focus on pain specifically, and consisted of training patients in meditation and yoga, and being present in the moment without trying to alter thoughts and emotions. Subjects in the usual care group were able to ask for any other treatment of their choice.
Participants were then asked to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the highest level of pain. At 26 weeks, both the MSBR and the CBT group reported marked improvements in functional movement, 61 percent and 58 percent, respectively. In particular, those practicing meditation and yoga had an easier time doing day-to-day things like putting on their socks or getting up from sitting. A year later, both groups were still doing well. In comparison, 44 percent of the group opting for their usual care reported feeling better.
Although the difference in results between MBSR and CBT treatments wasn't significant, patient access to cognitive behavioral therapy is limited. This study not only validates existing research on the benefits of meditation and yoga, but shows promise in offering treatment for low-back pain that's widely available.
So roll out your mat and jump into a yoga sequence to relieve your pain. Namaste.