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A recent study from researchers working out of the VA San Diego Healthcare System and UCSD finds that yoga may be more effective than painkillers –without side effects — for treating chronic low back pain.

For the study, which was published last month, 150 military veterans with chronic low back pain were recruited by the researchers. The mean participant age was 53, with 26 percent female and 74 percent male; 35 percent of these participants were unemployed or disabled, and the mean back pain duration was 15 years.

Yoga classes (with home practice) were led by a certified instructor twice weekly, and consisted primarily of physical postures, movement, and breathing techniques.

Outcomes were assessed at baseline, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and 6 months.

Yoga improved health outcomes among veterans, and many were able to cut back — or stop taking — prescribed painkillers, researchers found.

“The magnitude of pain intensity decline was small, but occurred in the context of reduced opioid use,” researchers reported. “The findings support wider implementation of yoga programs for veterans.

“Many chronic low back pain treatment options have limited benefits and are accompanied by side effects,” the study continued. “Major efforts to reduce opioid use and embrace nonpharmacological pain treatments have resulted. Research with community chronic low back pain patients indicates that yoga can improve health outcomes and has few side effects.”