Yoga: A cost-effective treatment for back pain sufferers?

August 16, 2012
Iyengar Yoga teacher Alison Trewhela, yoga trial participant Neil Tarbitt, and Anna Semlyen, British Wheel of Yoga teacher

Specialised group yoga classes could provide a cost-effective way of treating patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain, according to the UK's largest ever study of the benefits of yoga.

Led by the University of York, and funded by Arthritis Research UK, the study provides an evaluation of a specially-developed 12-week group intervention programme compared to conventional (GP) care alone.

The results published in Spine, show that the yoga intervention programme – 'Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs' - is likely to be cost effective for both the UK National Health Service (NHS) and wider society.

The cost assumed for yoga intervention is important in determining whether this is an efficient use of NHS resources. As yoga classes are not currently available through the NHS, the researchers examined a range of possible costs. They conclude that if the NHS was to offer specialist yoga and managed to maintain the cost below £300 per patient (for a cycle of 12 classes), there is a high probability (around 70 per cent) of the yoga intervention being cost effective.

Researchers also found that those taking part in the yoga programme had far fewer days off work than those in the control group. On average, a control group participant reported 12 days off due to back , whereas those in the yoga group had four days off. The cost associated with taking time off was £1,202 for a control group member, compared with £374 for a yoga group member.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of York's Department of Health Sciences and the Centre for Health Economics, and the Hull York Medical School.

Chief Investigator Professor David Torgerson, Director of York Trials Unit, in the University of York's Department of Health Sciences, said: "Back pain represents a significant burden to the NHS in the UK and to society as a whole. As well as the associated health care costs, it is also a major cause of work absenteeism which leads to a productivity loss to society.

"While yoga has been shown as an effective intervention for treating chronic and low back pain, until now there has been little evidence on its cost effectiveness. In our study we evaluated a specially-designed yoga class package by using individual-level data from a multi-centred randomized controlled trial. On the basis of the 12-month trial, we conclude that 12 weekly group classes of specialised yoga are likely to provide a cost-effective intervention for the treatment of patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain."

Back pain is estimated to cost the NHS £1.37 billion and the health care sector £2.10 billion a year. It is also one of the most common conditions treated in primary care in the UK with about 2.6 million people seeking advice from their GP about back pain each year.

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Research UK, said: "We welcome the fact that not only has yoga been found to help people manage their back pain, but that it is also cost effective, and results in fewer sick days. It is another option for people who are struggling to manage their condition, and one that encourages the move to self-management. Yoga is an intervention that has been proven to make their everyday lives easier and their pain more manageable.

"We'd hope that on the back of this, more people with back pain are encouraged to take up the yoga programme."

The trial involved two groups of people who were identified as having chronic or recurrent back pain. A group of 156 people were offered group specially designed to improve back function, while a second of 157 people received GP care alone.

Both groups received usual GP care, which could have involved, for example, referral to pain clinics and physiotherapists or prescription of painkillers.

The 12-week yoga programme was delivered by 12 experienced yoga teachers. It was designed by Alison Trewhela, an Iyengar Yoga teacher and Senior Practitioner in Yoga on the British Register of Complementary Practitioners, in collaboration with yoga teacher Anna Semlyen, a Back Care Advisor to the British Wheel of Yoga.

Alison Trewhela said: "GPs and commissioners are showing great interest in this yoga programme. Many consider it could be the primary treatment option because it offers long-term positive outcomes, as well as a multi-disciplinary combination of taught skills that suits the bio-psycho-social nature of the condition of chronic .

"Within its confidence-boosting, gradually-progressing environment, the gentle 'Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs' course addresses joint mobility, muscle-strengthening, emphasis on the breath, mental attitude to pain and perspective on life lessons, postural awareness and low back education, relaxation techniques, and advice about other potentially health-giving techniques and benefits."

Explore further: Yoga aids chronic back pain sufferers

More information: The paper ‘A pragmatic multicentred randomized controlled trial of yoga for chronic low back pain’ appears in the journal Spine. journals.lww.com/spinejournal/ … BRS.0b013e3182545937

Related Stories

Yoga aids chronic back pain sufferers

October 31, 2011
Yoga can provide more effective treatment for chronic lower back pain than more conventional methods, according to the UK's largest ever study into the benefits of yoga.

Yoga eases back pain in largest US study to date

October 24, 2011
Yoga classes were linked to better back-related function and diminished symptoms from chronic low back pain in the largest U.S. randomized controlled trial of yoga to date, published by the Archives of Internal Medicine as ...

NIH video reveals the science behind yoga

August 2, 2012
A video featuring research on how yoga works, the safety of yoga and whether yoga can help treat certain health problems is being released by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), ...

Studies show siginificant benefits of yoga in 2 conditions

May 26, 2011
Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis who practice yoga showed statistically significant improvements in disease activity, according to a small study presented today at the EULAR 2011 Annual Congress.

Researchers find yoga helps ease stress related medical and psychological conditions

March 6, 2012
An article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), New York Medical College (NYMC), and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) reviews evidence that yoga may be effective in treating ...

Recommended for you

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

Frequent blood donations safe for some, but not all

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some people may safely donate blood as often as every eight weeks—but that may not be a healthy choice for all, a new study suggests.

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.