MIndfulness Practices Relieve Lower Back Pain

Yoga and meditation practices may be more effective than standard treatments.

Posted Aug 04, 2016

StockSnap.io, used with permission.
Source: StockSnap.io, used with permission.

Up to 80 percent of adults suffer from debilitating lower back pain at some time in their lives. While most low back pain is short-lived, it can become chronic for some people. Standard treatments include rest, medication, hot and cold compresses, massage, chiropractic and osteopathic treatments, acupuncture, stretching, biofeedback, steroid injections and electrical nerve stimulation. Some patients find that buying a new mattress results in significant improvement. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also help if it includes training in deep breathing techniques and changing the way you think about pain.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) practices like yoga and meditation have also been found to improve chronic lower back pain and its physical limitations and can provide patients with ongoing pain management skills, according to researchers at the University of Washington and Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. Their research, published in a March 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that patients who used either CBT or MBSR techniques reported greater improvements after about 6 ½ months than patients who used other forms of standard care.

Before you take any steps on your own to relieve back pain, however, it is important to see a physician for an examination that might help determine the cause and severity of your condition, or you could make it worse. Your health care provider can help you decide not only which treatments are best for you, but also when you should begin.


Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, et al. Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care on back pain and functional limitations in adults with chronic low back pain. March 22/29 2016:315(12).  http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2504811

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.  http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm

Chang DG, Holt, JA, Sklar M and Groessl EJ. Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature. J Orthop Rehumatol. Jan 2016.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4878447/

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