Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy

Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy
Open Access

ISSN: 2157-7595

+44 7868 792050


Impact of Yoga on Low Back Pain and Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Amy M Sawyer, Sarah K Martinez and Gordon L Warren

An estimated 70% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and recurrence rates
can be as high as 85%. Recent studies suggest that yoga – a widely practiced physical/mental discipline – may
relieve back pain and reduce functional disability. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review and
meta-analysis of the existing research on the effects of yoga on chronic low back pain and function. Our literature
search began April 2011 and continued through October 2011. Cochrane, PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, ProQuest
Dissertations and Theses, Google Scholar, and databases were searched electronically. The search
terms used were: yoga AND back pain. A total of 58 relevant studies were originally identified through the database
searches. Of those, 45 were excluded on the basis of the title and/or review of the abstract. The 13 remaining studies
were fully evaluated via a careful review of the full text. On the basis of the inclusion and exclusion criteria, 6 studies
were excluded, leaving a total of 7 studies to be included in the meta-analyses of the impact of yoga on low back pain
and function. Effect sizes were calculated as the standardized mean difference and meta-analyses were completed
using a random-effects model. Overall, yoga was found to result in a medium, beneficial effect on chronic low back
pain [overall effect size (ES) = 0.58, p<0.001], indicating that subjects practicing yoga reported significantly less pain
than control subjects. Yoga subjects also reported significantly less functional disability after the intervention (overall
ES = 0.53, p<0.001). Moreover, the improvements in pain and function for yoga subjects remained statistically
significant 12-24 weeks after the end of the intervention (overall ES = 0.44-0.54, p≤0.002). In conclusion, yoga
practice can significantly reduce pain and increase functional ability in chronic low back pain patients.

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