Mind & Body • 4 Feb 2021

3 Common Pain Conditions Improved with Yoga Therapy

By uci_admin

By Heidi M. Crocker, EdD, DC, c-IAYT

SSIHI Yoga Therapist

Yoga therapy is an essential component of integrative pain care, which has been found to improve patient outcomes and alter the trajectory of the current public pain crises.[1]

Today, chronic pain affects an estimated 50 million adults in the United States alone, many of whom experience symptoms that interfere with daily life or work activities. [2] Yoga has been shown to positively affect function, pain, and quality of life for people with various musculoskeletal pain conditions.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is a combination of physical movement, breathing, and meditation.  Studies have shown that yoga is therapeutic in the treatment of various chronic pain conditions, especially low back pain.[3],[4] In addition, positive outcomes have been reported for chronic neck pain, cancer patients, and general health and wellbeing.

  1. Low Back Pain

Studies have shown that yoga improved low-back pain and function in both the short term (1-6 months) and intermediate-term (6-12 months).[5] Studies indicate that yoga can reduce pain and disability, can be practiced safely, and is well received by participants. In 2017, the American College of Physicians included yoga as a recommendation for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain.[6]

  1. Chronic Neck Pain

A 2019 systematic review concluded that practicing yoga reduced neck pain intensity and disability, as well as improved range of motion in the neck.[7] Secondary findings showed strong evidence that yoga has a positive impact on quality of life and overall mood. This is encouraging for those patients with high stress-induced neck pain.

  1. Knee Pain/Osteoarthritis

Recent studies have focused on strength, balance, and flexibility in people with chronic knee pain. Yoga has been shown to improve walking pain/time, range of knee flexion, and crepitus associated with knee function disability.[8] After a 12-week yoga intervention, positive effects on pain reduction and functional improvement were observed on patients with knee osteoarthritis.[9]

General Health and Wellbeing

Research supports practicing yoga is a beneficial therapy for stress management and wellbeing. Studies show that a regular yoga practice correlates with better sleep, improved body awareness, and healthier eating and physical activity habits. [10] Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on principles of preventative medicine and healthy lifestyle practices.


[1] Alliance to Advance Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management. (n.d.) History of CIPM. Retrieved from http://painmanagementalliance.org/about-us/history/

[2] Clauw, D.J., Essex, M. N., Pitman, V., & Jones, K.D. (2019). Reframing chronic pain as a disease, not a symptom: Rationale and implications for pain management.

[3] Groessl EJ, Liu L, Chang DG, et al. Yoga for Military Veterans with Chronic low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Am J Prev Med. 2017; 53 (5): 599-608

[4] Wieland LS, Skoetz N, Pilkington K, Vempati R, D’Adamo Cr, Berman BM. Yoga treatment for chronic non-specific low back pain. Cochrane Database syst Rev. 2017; 1:CD010671. Doi: 10.1002/14651858. CD010671.pub2

[5] Saper, RB, Lemaster C, Delitto A, et al. Yoga, Physical Therapy, or Education for chronic low back pain: A randomized noninferiority trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017; 167 (2): 85-94.

[6] Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, et al. Noninvasive treatments for acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;166(7):514-530.

[7]Li Y, Li S, Jiang J, et al. Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain. A PRISMA systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine. 2019;98(8): e14649.

[8] Ebnezar R, Nagarathna R, Yoitha B et al. Effects of an integrated approach of hatha yoga therapy on functional disability, pain, and flexibility in osteoarthritis of the knee joint: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2012; 18 (5), 463-472.

[9] Kan L, Zhang J, & Wang P. The effects of yoga on pain, mobility, and quality of life in patients with knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016. http://dx/doi.org/10.1155/2016/6016532

[10] Watts AW, Rydell SA, Eisenberg ME, et al. Yoga’s potential for promoting healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among young adults: a mixed-methods study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2018;15(1):42.

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