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Weekly and Twice-Weekly Yoga Classes Offer Similar Low-Back Pain Relief in Low-Income Minority Populations

People participating in a yoga class.

© Photodisc

Results of an NCCAM-funded study found that once-weekly yoga classes relieved pain, improved function, and reduced the need for pain medication just as well as twice-weekly classes in minority and low-income populations with chronic low-back pain. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Public Health, Group Health Research Institute, and the University of Washington published their findings in the online journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Researchers enrolled 95 adults aged 18–64 through six health centers in a low-income, predominantly-minority area of Boston. The participants had moderate to severe chronic low-back pain and significant related impairment. Most were non-White (82 percent), were unemployed or disabled (51 percent), and had annual household incomes of $40,000 or less (74 percent). One-third (35 percent) had a high-school education or less. All participants were randomly assigned to once- or twice-weekly sessions of a previously-tested hatha yoga class for 12 weeks. The program also included home practice, keeping a log, meditation, and information on yoga philosophy. Participants could continue with their usual back care.

The researchers found statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements in pain and back-related function in both groups (i.e., whether they had class once or twice per week); however, there was no statistical difference in these measures between the groups. Participants experienced the most benefit by 6 weeks, and the researchers noted that this finding may be of interest to clinicians who wonder how much yoga to recommend to patients. Results also suggest that low-income and minority populations will accept and be satisfied with the kind of yoga program they offered. But the researchers also mentioned that the cost of individual community yoga classes ($15–$20) may keep low-income populations from engaging in them. Adverse events, mostly musculoskeletal pain, were common; they mostly resolved on their own and were not serious. There are some limitations in this preliminary study, many of which will be addressed in the larger and longer trial to follow.


  • Saper RB, Boah AR, Keosaian J, et al. Comparing once– versus twice–weekly yoga classes for chronic low back pain in predominantly low income minorities: a randomized dosing trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine [online journal]. 2013: 658030. Accessed at on July 5, 2013.
Publication Date: 
July 1, 2013

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This page last modified October 22, 2015