Don't fall for this new back pain scam
I don't get it. The mainstream media is madly in love with yoga, and there's not much reason for it.
It's fine as far as stretching goes, but the media fawns over it as if there's something magical about yoga and yoga alone.
Just look at the latest headlines, which claim yoga is "as good as" physical therapy for low back pain.
Sure, both can be helpful to folks with back pain.
But neither are perfect, and the study shows that pretty clearly, too.
The study didn't just compare yoga to old-fashioned PT. There was also a third group of patients who didn't get either treatment. They were given a book about how to care for back pain and some follow-up information every few weeks.
After 12 weeks, the folks who did the yoga had an improvement in function of 3.8 points as measured by a common pain scale, which was almost identical to the 3.5-point improvement of those who had PT.
That's better than the folks who didn't get either, but not by much: They had a 2.5-point boost in function.
The folks who did yoga and PT were a little less likely to need painkillers early on, another plus for both. But again, the benefit was modest.
So sure -- there are some benefits to yoga, and it's certainly not harmful like drugs or invasive like surgery.
But yoga does lose to physical therapy in one very important way: PT is often likely to be covered by your insurance if you have an ongoing pain problem.
Yoga is not.
In addition, a trained physical therapist can work with you to target specific trouble spots and ensure he doesn't aggravate your injury or cause a new one.
You won't always get that from yoga.
There's also something else to watch out for: Yoga is part of the Hindu faith, and most of the classes involve chanting and other elements that are part of that religion. As a Christian, I wouldn't practice yoga myself in a setting with those elements.
That said, if you want to give it a try, you might find some classes that remove the religious parts and just focus on the muscle-easing stretches.
Just bear in mind that while yoga and PT can often be helpful, they're not always the answer to long-term chronic pain problems, such as low back pain.
You'll get much better results from therapies such as spinal manipulation and acupuncture. These treatments may even cure some cases of low back pain (and, like PT, may be covered by insurance).
Other folks may need a little more help. For the best results, combine these non-drug therapies with natural pain relievers such as topical MSM.