Listed in Issue 179


SAPER and COLLEAGUES,  Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts, USA assess the feasibility of studying yoga in a predominantly minority population suffering from chronic low back pain and compared efficacy with standard medication treatment for back pain.


Several studies suggest yoga may be effective for chronic low back pain; however, trials targeting minorities have not been conducted.


Primary Study Objectives: Assess the feasibility of studying yoga in a predominantly minority population with chronic low back pain. Collect preliminary data to plan a larger powered study. Study Design: Pilot randomized controlled trial. Setting: Two community health centres in a racially diverse neighbourhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Participants: Thirty English-speaking adults (mean age 44 years, 83% female, 83% racial/ethnic minorities; 48% with incomes < or = $30,000) with moderate-to-severe chronic low back pain. Interventions: Standardized series of weekly hatha yoga classes for 12 weeks compared to a waitlist usual care control. Outcome Measures: Feasibility measured by time to complete enrolment, proportion of racial/ethnic minorities enrolled, retention rates, and adverse events. Primary efficacy outcomes were changes from baseline to 12 weeks in pain score (0=no pain to 10=worst possible pain) and back-related function using the modified Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (0-23 point scale, higher scores reflect poorer function). Secondary efficacy outcomes were analgesic use, global improvement, and quality of life (SF-36).


Recruitment took 2 months. Retention rates were 97% at 12 weeks and 77% at 26 weeks. Mean pain scores for yoga decreased from baseline to 12 weeks (6.7 to 4.4) compared to usual care, which decreased from 7.5 to 7.1 (P=.02). Mean Roland scores for yoga decreased from 14.5 to 8.2 compared to usual care, which decreased from 16.1 to 12.5 (P=.28). At 12 weeks, yoga compared to usual care participants reported less analgesic use (13% vs 73%, P=.003), less opiate use (0% vs 33%, P=.04), and greater overall improvement (73% vs 27%, P=.03). There were no differences in SF-36 scores and no serious adverse events.


A yoga study intervention in a predominantly minority population with chronic low back pain was moderately feasible and may be more effective than usual care for reducing pain and pain medication use.


Saper RB, Sherman KJ, Cullum-Dugan D, Davis RB, Phillips RS and Culpepper L. Yoga for chronic low back pain in a predominantly minority population: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine. 15(6):18-27, 2009 Nov-Dec. Other ID:  Source: NLM. NIHMS156015.  Source: NLM. PMC2792123

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