Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

Got a Pain in the Back?

Then try yoga instead of a trip to the doctor


Yoga is more efficient at alleviating lower back pain than conventional medical treatment, a trial has found.

After a 12-week course of yoga, patients with long-term back pain reported less discomfort, performed better physically and were more confident in performing everyday tasks than those offered conventional GP care.

TWhile improvements were most pronounced at three months, immediately after the yoga course, people who were assigned to the yoga group still had less pain a year after the start of the study.

David Torgerson, director of the Trials Unit at the University of York, said: “Doctors should be able to suggest yoga classes as an approach that could help.”

The study, published today in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, assigned 156 patients to yoga classes and a control group of 157 patients to standard GP care. Those in the control group received a range of interventions, including mild pain relief medication, physiotherapy and advice to remain active and avoid heavy lifting. On average, members of the yoga group were able to undertake 30 per cent more activities compared with those in the usual care group after three months.

Lower back pain affects 80 per cent of the UK population at some point. It is estimated that about 4.9 million working days a year are lost to it, but few effective, evidenced-based treatments exist.

The yoga programme, which involved 20 experienced yoga teachers, was designed and delivered by Alison Trewhela, from Truro, Cornwall, an Iyengar Yoga teacher and Senior Practitioner in Yoga on the British Register of Complementary Practitioners.

The classes were designed for complete beginners, with yoga teachers given extra training in back care. Participants were recruited from 39 general practices in seven Primary Care trust areas, with classes held in non-NHS premises in Cornwall, North London, West London, Manchester and York.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: “This trial is part of our larger commitment to seek self-help solutions to this common musculoskeletal problem. There are compelling explanations why yoga may be helpful and this trial lends powerful support to the wider use of this approach.”

Sue Faulkner, 68, from Bishopthorpe in York, who took part in the trial said that yoga had helped her to resume hobbies and a more active life. “Walking around is no longer a problem and I can do my gardening now so long as I pace myself,” she said. “I’ve even taken on an allotment with my daughter and son-in-law and no longer take painkillers.”

Hannah Devlin, Science Correspondent

Got a Pain in the Back?

We agree that mindful bodywork is both beneficial and healing on all levels: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Your body holds your story – including all the traumas and emotional experiences you amass over your life. This is stored energy, and whatever pain or condition you are experiencing, it is often the non-physical becoming physical, it is emotion manifesting itself. Bodywork helps you to work with your body and understand what it is feeling and expressing.

We offer various types and combinations of bodywork, preferring - wherever possible - to provide clients with an individually designed, bespoke programme of care. Clients must be disciplined if they are to fully understand their bodies and what their body needs.

We also run small, intimate groups so the benefits of a shared experience can be enjoyed by group members, who can learn from each other. Almost all our programmes include relaxation, mindfulness and inner stillness. Choose from Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Shiatsu and associated holistic stretch work to experience meditation and body awareness in action.

Whatever your body is holding, by paying conscious attention to your body and the story of its pain, you will learn how to help to let it go.