Reduced stress, enhanced memory and creativity, and increased suppleness… Yoga is positively associated with a host of virtues, including improved sleep and diminished back pain. Now a new study by the Boston Medical Center (BMC), published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, has confirmed the benefits of yoga and physiotherapy as effective alternatives for the treatment of both of these problems when they occur at the same time.
Previous studies have shown that 59% of chronic lower back pain sufferers also have to put up with poor quality sleep, with 53% diagnosed with insomnia disorder. “Medication for both sleep and back pain can have serious side effects, and risk of opioid-related overdose and death increases with use of sleep medications,” point out the authors of the study.
Significant improvement after 6 weeks of yoga
The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial that included 320 adults with an average age of 46, who were followed for a period of 52 weeks. At the outset of the study, virtually all of the participants (92%) reported that they did not sleep well. Participants were then assigned to one of three programs: physiotherapy, weekly yoga or reading educational materials.
After six weeks of treatment, the volunteers in the yoga and physiotherapy programs reported a 30% reduction in back pain. They were also three times more likely to have improved sleep after a complete 12-week course of physiotherapy or yoga. The study also indicates the results were similar after one year of follow-up.
“This really emphasises the need for providers to ask patients with chronic low back pain about the quality of their sleep. Given the serious risks of combining pain and sleep medications, non-pharmacologic approaches should be considered for these patients,” points out Eric Roseen, an assistant professor of family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and the main author of the study.