Regular stretching just as good as yoga for back pain

Yoga can relieve lower back pain, but it’s the stretching that helps, not the meditation. A new study found that yoga and regular stretching were equally effective at improving lower back pain symptoms, suggesting that the mindfulness promoted by yoga doesn’t do much for certain hurts.

More than 200 adults with lower back pain were randomly assigned to take yoga classes, stretching classes or to read a book about exercise and lifestyle changes. Both the yoga and stretching classes focused on strengthening the back and leg muscles.

After 12 weeks, people who did yoga or stretching were more likely to say their back pain was better, much better or completely gone compared with those who read the self-care book, researchers at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found. Those who did yoga or stretching were also able to decrease their medications.

For people considering stretching or yoga to improve back pain, study author Karen Sherman said it’s important that the classes are therapeutically oriented, designed for beginners and led by instructors who can modify postures depending on individual physical limitations.

The findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.