The practice of yoga has been credited with everything from reversing heart disease to alleviating the symptoms of menopause. Now researchers say the ancient Hindu practice may ease chronic pain.
"People suffering from chronic pain go through more than just the pain itself," explains Sonia Gaur of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center's department of psychology. "They contend with anxiety and depression as well as medication usage. Our study found improvement in every area."
Gaur's study recruited 18 volunteers suffering from chronic pain from ailments such as migraines and osteoarthritis. The volunteers participated in 90-minute yoga sessions three times a week for four weeks; they combined meditative breathing exercises known as pranayam with different yoga poses. The poses were designed to release physical tension.
To measure the effect that the yoga sessions had on the volunteers' pain, Gaur asked them to rate their moods and the severity of their pain at the end of each week. Most volunteers reported that their pain decreased enough to ask their physicians to decrease their medication. Although no one knows the exact mechanism by which yoga works to relieve pain, Gaur says what is more important is its effectiveness. "Some people live with chronic pain their whole lives," Gaur says. "Yoga is another way of coping with these ailments."