Relief for a Pain in the Neck

Chronic neck pain may be alleviated through yoga

(RxWiki News) Forget the painkillers and steroid injections when it comes to chronic neck pain. The solution may be as easy as rolling out your yoga mat.

A recent study looked at the use of Iyengar yoga to treat chronic neck pain. The study showed yoga significantly reduced pain more than other exercise.

Iyengar yoga, a type of yoga that emphasizes achieving precise postures while focusing on a person's breathing, is designed to increase the practitioner's strength, stability and flexibility. Past studies have shown Iyengar yoga helps to ease pain conditions.

"Give yoga a try - it has many benefits."

Andreas Michalsen, MD, of the Charite-University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues studied 77 patients with chronic neck pain. The study participants were assigned to either a group treated with yoga or a group treated with self-care and exercise. The yoga group practiced 90 minutes of Iyengar yoga for 9 weeks. Participants were asked to practice at home for ten to 15 minutes, two to three times a week.

The exercise group was given a manual that specified 12 exercises, as well as education for chronic neck pain. Participants were also required to practice for ten to 15 minutes at least three times a week at home. The exercise group was offered participation in similar yoga classes at the end of the study.

All study participants were examined at the beginning of the study, after four weeks, and after ten weeks to determine neck pain throughout the study. Pain during motion, disability, quality of life and psychological outcomes were also assessed.

The dropout rate was higher than expected for this study. The yoga group reduced in size from 38 to 25 and the exercise group reduced from 39 to 28.

The yoga group had a significantly greater reduction in pain when compared to the exercise group. The yoga group also experienced an improvement in psychological well-being and overall quality of life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the yoga group experienced reduced pain from 44.3 to 13.0 at ten weeks. The exercise group experienced reduced pain from 41.9 to 34.4 on a scale of 100 after ten weeks. Pain in motion was reduced from 53.4 to 22.4 in the yoga group and from 49.4 to 39.9 in the exercise group.

Diane Shiao, PT, MSPT, DPT of Revive Physical Therapy and Wellness in Edison, New Jersey told dailyRx that yoga can help patients with chronic neck pain as long as it is performed with conscious awareness and gradual flexibility gains.

Yoga is known to tone muscles and release muscle tension. Relaxing of the muscles can reduce muscle-related stress and change the way the body interprets pain.

Yoga can also help change bad postural habits that lead to tension and pain in daily life.

"Poor posture is a main contributor to chronic neck pain," adds Dr. Shiao. "Holding postures in yoga that focus on correcting alignment and maintaining balance can reverse the unfavorable posturing."

Those looking to begin yoga for pain should seek an instructor with licensed training and experience. If practiced incorrectly or too aggressively, some forms of yoga can do more harm than good.

The study was published in the Journal of Pain, a publication of the American Pain Society. The study was supported by the Carl and Veronica Carstens Foundation, Germany. One of the authors is affiliated with the sponsoring foundation. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
December 4, 2012