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NCCIH Clinical Digest

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Use of Yoga, Meditation, and Chiropractic by Adults and Children:
What the Science Says

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November 2018
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Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 

Yoga

Yoga was the most commonly used complementary health approach among U.S. adults in 2012 (9.5 percent) and 2017 (14.3 percent).

The percentage of U.S. children who used yoga in the past 12 months increased significantly from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017.

Among the survey’s other findings in U.S. adults:

  • In 2017, women were more than twice as likely to use yoga compared with men (19.8 percent versus 8.6 percent).
  • Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to practice yoga compared with Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adults.
  • The use of yoga was highest among adults aged 18 to 44 and decreased with advancing age.

Among the survey’s other findings in U.S. children:

  • The percentage of children who used yoga in the past 12 months increased significantly from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017.
  • Girls (11.3 percent) were significantly more likely to have used yoga compared with boys (5.6 percent). 
  • Non-Hispanic white children were more likely to have used yoga than non-Hispanic black children or Hispanic children.

What Does Other Research Show About Yoga’s Effectiveness?

Research suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may help reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic low-back pain. Studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might confer other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help alleviate anxiety and depression. Other research suggests yoga’s deep breathing is not helpful for asthma, and studies looking at yoga and arthritis have had mixed results.

 

Meditation

The use of meditation by U.S. adults increased more than threefold from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017. In 2012, chiropractic care was as popular as yoga, followed by meditation; however, the popularity of meditation surpassed that of chiropractic care to become the second most used approach among those surveyed in 2017.

The use of meditation by U.S. children increased significantly from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017.

Among the survey’s other findings in U.S. adults:

  • Women were more likely than men to practice meditation (16.3 percent versus 11.8 percent).
  • Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to practice meditation compared with Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adults.
  • The use of meditation was higher among adults aged 45 to 64 years compared with younger and older age groups. 

Among the survey’s other findings in U.S. children:

  • There were no significant differences between boys and girls in the use of meditation or chiropractic care.
  • In 2017, older children (aged 12 to 17 years) were more likely to have used meditation than younger children (aged 4 to 11 years).

What Does Other Research Show About Meditation’s Effectiveness?

Research suggests that meditation can be a powerful tool for learning control of attention, regulating emotion, and increasing self-awareness. Data show that during meditation there are a number of measurable biological changes, and the data suggest that meditation has the potential to impact mental and physical health. For example, neuroimaging suggests meditation may have an effect on brain function that persists even when someone is not meditating. Another study showed changes in certain genes related to inflammation and histones.

Further, available data suggests that mindfulness meditation—a mind-body practice which cultivates abilities to maintain focused and clear attention, and develop increased awareness of the present—may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as menopausal symptoms and the symptoms associated with cancer and treatment side effects.

 

Chiropractic

The use of chiropractic care by U.S. adults increased from 9.1 percent in 2012 to 10.3 percent in 2017.

Among U.S. children, there was no significant difference in the use of chiropractic care between 2012 and 2017 (3.5 percent versus 3.4 percent).

Among the survey’s other findings in U.S. adults:

  • Women were more likely than men to see a chiropractor (11.1 percent versus 9.4 percent).
  • Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to visit chiropractors compared with Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adults.
  • The use of chiropractic care was higher among adults aged 45 to 64 years compared with younger and older age groups. 

Among the survey’s other findings in U.S. children:

  • There were no significant differences between boys and girls in the use of chiropractic care.
  • Non-Hispanic white children were more likely to have used chiropractic care than non-Hispanic black children or Hispanic children.

What Does Other Research Show About the Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care?

Researchers have studied spinal manipulation for a number of conditions ranging from back, neck, and shoulder pain to asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and headaches. Much of the research has focused on low-back pain, and has shown that spinal manipulation appears to benefit some people with this condition. 

2017 clinical practice guidelines issued by the American College of Physicians strongly recommended spinal manipulation, based on low-quality evidence, as initial treatment for patients with chronic low-back pain. A systematic review supporting the 2017 clinical practice guidelines evaluated 32 randomized controlled trials involving more than 6,000 participants and found modest, short-term effects on pain. 

Reviews of research on manual therapies (primarily manipulation or mobilization) for chronic neck pain have found mixed evidence regarding potential benefits and have emphasized the need for additional research. A 2015 Cochrane review of 51 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 2,920 participants concluded that there is some evidence to support the use of thoracic manipulation versus control for neck pain, function, and quality of life; however, results for cervical manipulation and mobilization are few and diverse. The reviewers noted that these findings suggest that manipulation and mobilization present similar results for each outcome at immediate-, short-, and intermediate-term followup. Multiple cervical manipulation sessions may provide better relief of pain and improvement in function than certain medications at immediate-, intermediate-, and long-term followup. Because there is risk of rare but serious adverse events for manipulation, more rigorous research is needed on mobilization, and comparing mobilization and manipulation versus other treatment options. A 2007 review noted that clinical guidelines often endorse the use of manual therapies for neck pain, although there is no overall consensus on the status of these therapies.

References

  • Black LI, Barnes PM, Clarke TC, Stussman BJ, Nahin RL. Use of yoga, meditation and chiropractors among children aged 4–17. NCHS Data Brief, no 324. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.

  • Clarke TC, Barnes PM, Black LI, Stussman BJ, Nahin RL. Use of yoga, meditation, and chiropractors among U.S. adults aged 18 and over. NCHS Data Brief, no 325. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018.

    NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

    The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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    This page last modified November 14, 2018