More people could be grabbing their Yoga mats and heading to the gym after research found that the exercise is more effective at treating chronic lower back pain than conventional methods.

The research, led by academics at the University of York and funded by Arthritis Research UK, found those who had tried out Yoga classes for 12 weeks had improved back function and more confidence in doing everyday tasks, such as dressing themselves without help or standing up for longer periods.

Yoga sessions were devised by teachers who had been given extra training in back care and were designed for patients who had never used quality Yoga mats before.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, commented: "We’re delighted that our trial has shown that Yoga provides such positive benefits for people with chronic low back pain. This extremely common condition cannot be managed with painkillers alone and there is an urgent need to have non-drug therapies that sufferers can utilise in their own home.

"This trial is part of our larger commitment to seek self-help solutions to this common musculoskeletal problem. There are compelling explanations why Yoga may be helpful and this trial lends powerful support to the wider use of this approach," he added.

Some 80 per cent of the population suffers from lower back pain at some stage of their life, and it is thought that almost five million working days a year are lost due to employees having bad back pain.

Exercise treatment is widely used and recommended but tends to only have a small effect on back pain, but it appears that weekly Yoga sessions can be used to manage discomfort and has lasting effects on patients, explained Professor David Torgerson, director of York Trials Unit in the university’s Department of Health Sciences.

"Our results showed that yoga can provide both short and long-term benefits to those suffering from chronic or recurrent back pain, without any serious side-effects," he added.

Posted by Freya Harper