I came across this research item in my e-mail recently:

Psychological Effects of Yoga and Physical Therapy on Low-Back Pain and Disability

It is a US study looking at how Yoga and Physical Therapy may contribute to improving peoples experience of Low Back Pain, by reducing perceived stress.

Its known that psychological health has a tremendous effect on experience of pain.  This is the so called BioPsychoSocial approach to health.

In this research the Yoga intervention seems to have been physically based, using Hatha Yoga classes – a classical movement and posture based yoga approach. 

The conclusion seems to be that improvements in psychological health from Yoga didn’t seem to correlate with the reduction of the stress of low back pain, compared to a control group.

It is a odd set of conclusions.  First, it seeks to separate improvements in back pain from psychological heath versus improvements in back pain overall – in fact we aren’t told whether overall people felt better or worse!  And surely thats the key thing!  It seems a reductionist and simplified approach.  Secondly, Hatha yoga tends to be conflated with physical exercise, borne out by the fact that Yoga and Physical Therapy are compared to a control group, yet a therapeutic approach to back health with yoga is much wider than just yoga postures – the nervous system, accessed through practices like Pranayama (breathing exercises) and mindfulness, as well as via postural yoga, is the emphasis in managing pain – indeed by themselves, without sensitive teaching, yoga postures may do more harm than good.

So had the authors of the report used a therapeutically taught yoga approach, ideally with a Yoga Therapist, then the outcomes would likely have been different.

Put simply not all Yoga is the same.  And thats no bad thing, as at different stages in life we have different needs.  The trick is to know what is right for this time.

To read a bit more about how I approach Back Care and Back Pain, read here

I’d like to think I achieve a bit more with my clients than this report suggests!