Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong shown to be effective for back pain

(Wake Up World | Nikki Harper) Back pain: we’ve almost all had it at some point, and everyone knows that sinking feeling when you realize you’re going to be in pain and with limited movement for a while. Statistics suggest that 80% of people worldwide will experience lower back pain in their lifetime, lasting for anything from a few days to several months [1]. 8% of us will go on to develop chronic back pain which is bad enough to limit our day to day activities [2] – intensely physically debilitating but also psychologically distressing.

Effective treatments for back pain

The normal treatment for back pain in our mainstream healthcare systems ranges from nothing at all – the go away and put it with it model – to the use of opioid painkillers, physical therapy (physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy) and self-help stretches. Sometimes people are offered cognitive behavioural therapy to help deal with the psychological effects of the pain. Surgery is sometimes an option if the pain has a specific, identifiable cause. However, the efficacy of all of these interventions is questionable in the long term, not to mention that they are economically expensive and, in the case of drug interventions, potentially harmful.

However, a new review has highlighted how “movement-based mind-body interventions”, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, can be . Yoga is popular worldwide for its physical and mental health benefits, while tai chi combines gentle exercise with mindfulness. Qigong blends slow movements with body awareness. The review, carried out by Florida Atlantic University and the Lynn College of Nursing, has been published in Holistic Nursing Practice, and calls for more research into this potentially promising area [3].



25 of the studies reviewed by researchers involved the benefits of yoga for back pain; there were 4 studies into tai chi and back pain and just 3 involving qigong and back pain. Researchers found that yoga and tai chic appeared to be effective therapies, resulting in a reduction of pain, a reduction of psychological distress, and improved movement function. There were not enough qigong studies for them to draw reliable conclusions, but they do believe that there is potential there too. “Yoga, tai chi and qigong could be used as effective treatment alternatives to pain medications, surgery, or injection-based treatments such as nerve blocks, which are associated with high incidence of adverse effects in treating lower back pain,” said said Juyoung Park, Ph.D, one of the study authors [4].

The beauty of these movement-based mind-body interventions appears to be that they link gentle bodily stretches and mobility-enhancing movements with a meditative, mindful or spiritual psychological component too. The researchers measured evidence of a positive effect on pain perception, coping strategies and quality of life through yoga, tai chi and qigong for back pain sufferers, and found improvements in all three metrics.

However, with research in this area currently thin on the ground, particularly with regard to tai chi and qigong, more research is needed if we are to see doctors and nurse practitioners routinely referring patients to yoga, tai chi or qigong for back pain. The possibility is intriguing, nonetheless – and such a direction of travel would help to move away from the potential harmful effects of drug based therapy, as well as boosting the psychological morale of those suffering from chronic back pain.

About the author

Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and editor for Wake Up World.

Source: Wake Up world

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