Yoga practice may help people ease various types of pain arising from diverse conditions such as headaches, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or labor pain, among others, but more rigorous research is needed to substantiate how and why relief occurs. Researchers from the University of Exeter, in England, conducted a literature review of randomized controlled clinical trials to evaluate yoga’s effectiveness at lessening pain. Ten studies met the inclusion criteria.
Data analysis showed that in nine out of 10 studies, yoga practice did alleviate pain for conditions ranging from chronic low-back pain to irritable bowel syndrome. However, the researchers did not consider the evidence conclusive because the yoga interventions differed in style, duration, frequency and intensity and in whether supervised or home practice dominated.
Lead study author, Paul Posadzki, PhD, said, “There is a huge potential in yoga to alleviate pain. I think including physiological markers of pain in future research would improve our understanding of the mechanisms of action involved in yoga.” The review was published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2011; 19, 281–87).