Purpose: The purpose of this randomized pilot study was to evaluate a possible design for a 6-week modified hatha yoga protocol to study the effects on participants with chronic low back pain.
Participants: Twenty-two participants (M = 4; F = 17), between the ages of 30 and 65, with chronic low back pain (CLBP) were randomized to either an immediate yoga based intervention, or to a control group with no treatment during the observation period but received later yoga training.
Methods: A specific CLBP yoga protocol designed and modified for this population by a certified yoga instructor was administered for one hour, twice a week for 6 weeks. Primary functional outcome measures included the forward reach (FR) and sit and reach (SR) tests. All participants completed Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) questionnaires. Guiding questions were used for qualitative data analysis to ascertain how yoga participants perceived the instructor, group dynamics, and the impact of yoga on their life.
Analysis: To account for drop outs, the data were divided into better or not categories, and analyzed using chi-square to examine differences between the groups. Qualitative data were analyzed through frequency of positive responses.
Results: Potentially important trends in the functional measurement scores showed improved balance and flexibility and decreased disability and depression for the yoga group but this pilot was not powered to reach statistical significance. Significant limitations included a high dropout rate in the control group and large baseline differences in the secondary measures. In addition, analysis of the qualitative data revealed the following frequency of responses (1) group intervention motivated the participants and (2) yoga fostered relaxation and new awareness/learning.
Conclusion: A modified yoga-based intervention may benefit individuals with CLB, but a larger study is necessary to provide definitive evidence. Also, the impact on depression and disability could be considered as important outcomes for further study. Additional functional outcome measures should be explored. This pilot study supports the need for more research investigating the effect of yoga for this population.