Using Yoga and Tai Chi to Ease Lower Back Pain


A large number of adults in the US experience low back pain at some point in their life. The limited treatment options available often fall short in treating this pain.

According to a recent review by researchers from the Florida Atlantic University, movement-based mind-body exercises like yoga and tai chi are effective in the treatment of lower back pain.

Effects of Back Pain

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that 80% of adults in the US experience low back pain.

The current treatments for back pain include taking medication such as opioids, self-care, undergoing surgery, and physical therapy. Physical therapy is gaining traction due to the high costs and health implications of opioids and surgery.

The prevalence of low back pain in the US is the major cause of missed workdays and a common cause for work-related disabilities. According to the review, chronic low back pain often leads to depression, anxiety, social isolation, and depression. A drug-free and low-cost treatment of low back pain could change a lot of lives. 

How Yoga and Tai Chi Work

The researchers from Florida Atlantic University focused on yoga, tai chi, and qigong, all movement-based mind-body interventions. All these methods feature a physical and meditative aspect.

The researchers reviewed data to determine the effects of these interventions on chronic back pain, psychological factors, and coping strategies.

Juyoung Park, Ph.D. one of the authors of the review says, “Our goal was to provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of these interventions to be able to offer information across disciplines to implement evidence-based interventions to reduce such pain.”

Following detailed research, the authors of the review concluded that yoga and tai chi were effective in treating low back pain. These movement-based mind-body exercises reduced pain-related disability and psychological distress like anxiety and depression in adults with chronic low back pain. These also improved functional abilities in people.

Getting Low Back Pain Treatment

There are numerous causes for low back pain, but the cause for chronic lower back pain is often unknown. The methods for treating chronic low back pain are also quite complex.

Gray Donaldson, Ph.D., a director of the Pain Research Center at the University of Utah says, “There’s no single best treatment for chronic low back pain.

Even if a definite anatomical problem can be repaired surgically, recovery is complicated, and proper exercise can help. Analgesics, particularly non-opioid analgesics that also reduce inflammation are also helpful.”

He advises that individuals with low back pain take careful consideration when managing lower back pain. It’s also important for such individuals to consult doctors or trusted healthcare providers when seeking treatment.

“Individual responses to the same therapies are vastly different, so generalities that treatments can be effective are not all that helpful. The hard part is figuring out what works for whom, and how well,” he adds.

Many experts agree that the best way of dealing with lower back pain is avoiding it, then managing it. Some forms of exercise such as yoga and tai chi will also help in dealing with low back pain.