Yoga for chronic neck pain: a pilot randomized controlled clinical trial

J Pain. 2012 Nov;13(11):1122-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2012.08.004.


Yoga has been found effective in the treatment of chronic low back pain. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of Iyengar yoga in chronic neck pain by means of a randomized clinical trial. Seventy-seven patients (aged 47.9 ± 7.9, 67 female) with chronic neck pain who scored >40 mm on a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS) were randomized to a 9-week Iyengar yoga program with weekly 90-minute classes (n = 38) or to a self-care/exercise program (n = 38). Patients were examined at baseline and after 4 and 10 weeks. The primary outcome measure was change of mean pain at rest (VAS) from baseline to week 10. Secondary outcomes included pain at motion, functional disability, quality of life (QOL), and psychological outcomes. Twelve patients in the yoga group and 11 patients in the self-care/exercise group were lost to follow-up, with higher study nonadherence in the self-care group (5 versus 10 patients). Mean pain at rest was reduced from 44.3 ± 20.1 to 13.0 ± 11.6 at week 10 by yoga and from 41.9 ± 21.9 to 34.4 ± 21.1 by self-care/exercise (group difference: -20.1, 95% confidence interval: -30.0, -10.1; P < .001). Pain at motion was reduced from 53.4 ± 18.5 to 22.4 ± 18.7 at week 10 by yoga and from 49.4 ± 22.8 to 39.9 ± 21.5 by self-care/exercise (group difference: -18.7, 95% confidence interval: -29.3, -8.1; P < .001). Significant treatment effects of yoga were also found for pain-related apprehension, disability, QOL, and psychological outcomes. Sensitivity analyses suggested minimal influence of dropout rates. Both programs were well tolerated. In this preliminary trial, yoga appears to be an effective treatment in chronic neck pain with possible additional effects on psychological well-being and QOL. The effectiveness of yoga in chronic neck pain should be further tested by comparative effectiveness studies with longer observation periods.

Perspective: This article presents the results of a randomized controlled trial on the clinical effects of a 9-week yoga program or self-care exercise in patients with chronic neck pain. Yoga led to superior pain relief and functional improvements and might be a useful treatment option for chronic neck pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Safety
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Sample Size
  • Self Care
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists
  • Yoga*