New Study: Yoga Used As A Treatment for Back Pain & To Improve Sleep

New Study: Yoga Used As A Treatment for Back Pain & To Improve Sleep
Photo by Dane Wetton on Unsplash

Researchers from Boston Medical Center say yoga and physical therapy are effective approaches to “treating co-occurring sleep disturbance and back pain while reducing the need for medication.”

The Study

Published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the research showed significant improvements in sleep quality lasting 52 weeks after 12 weeks of yoga classes or 1-on-1 physical therapy, which suggests long term benefit. Also shown, participants with early improvements in pain after six weeks of treatment were three and a half times more likely to have improvements in sleep after the full, 12-week treatment, highlighting that pain and sleep are closely related.

Overall Benefits

Yoga is an ancient practice that has become very popular today, as it touts numerous benefits from eating a more mindful diet to supporting a healthy heart.

Research from the University of Washington shows that individuals who practice yoga regularly eat a more mindful diet, compared to other exercises. “It encourages you to focus on your breathing, and the sensations in your body. This trains your brain to notice what’s happening to your body, helping you pay more attention to sensations of hunger and satiety.”

According to a study published in the journal of Physical Activity and Health, twenty minutes of yoga can improve the brain’s ability to quickly and accurately process information (even more than running). Zimmerman explains, “While most exercise gives you a choice to either zone in or zone out, this exercise encourages you to return to the present and pay attention. This mindful awareness has been correlated with structural changes in the brain, including growth in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with executive function, working memory and attention.”

Read more about the benefits of yoga and your brain in ‘How Yoga and Meditation Improve Brain Function and Energy Levels’ >>

Stress hormones trigger your “fight or flight” response – your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles are ready for action. But when the stress response keeps firing, it could put your health at risk. Symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia. “The tensing and relaxation of muscles during yoga – along with mindful awareness of physical sensations – helps us relax,” says Physician Jamie Zimmerman, MD, a meditation instructor. According to a study from Harvard University, just eight weeks of practicing yoga daily can improve sleep quality in people with insomnia.

Larry Phillips, MS, a cardiologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center says, “Yoga can reduce high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and stress – all risk factors for heart disease.” A review of the exercise and cardiovascular disease published in the European Journal of Preventive cardiology indicated that yoga may help lower heart disease risk as much as conventional exercise, such as brisk walking.

Boston Medical Center. “Yoga and physical therapy as treatment for chronic lower back pain also improves sleep.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2019. <>.

Do you practice yoga? What are some of the benefits you’ve seen? Leave us a comment below.


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