Expectations and effects of a single yoga session on pain perception

Int J Yoga. Jul-Dec 2015;8(2):154-7. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.158486.


Background: Several studies show yoga may benefit chronic pain management. We investigated the effect of a single yoga session on the perception of pain, measured by a standardized pain provocation test in healthy yoga participants while also comparing pain perception to participants' own expectations.

Materials and methods: Ninety yoga participants were recruited at hatha yoga schools in Switzerland. Pain perception was measured with a standardized algometric pain provocation test; i.e., a calibrated peg was applied for 10 seconds after which the participant rated pain intensity on a 0-10 numerical rating scale. The test was applied to the middle finger, ear lobe, and second toe before and after a 60-minute yoga session.

Results: Sixty out of 90 (66.7%) yoga participants expected a reduced pain perception after the yoga session. However, 36 (40%) participants actually experienced less pain after compared to before the yoga session. But overall, pain perception statistically did not significantly change from before to after the yoga session at any of the three body locations assessed. The expectations and also the previous yoga experience did not significantly influence the participants' pain perception.

Conclusions: Regardless of the high positive expectations on the influence of yoga on pain, a single yoga session does not significantly influence pain perception induced by a pain provocation test. Hypoalgesic effects of yoga should be explained otherwise.

Keywords: Algometry; expectation; pain; pain perception; yoga.