Many people try yoga hoping to heal an injury, but some wind up with more aches and pains, a new study finds.
The study, which surveyed hundreds of people doing yoga for more than a year, found that two-thirds said that some existing aches improved because of yoga – most often, lower back and neck pain.
On the other hand, 21% said yoga worsened their muscle or joint pain. And almost 11% said it caused new issues – most commonly, pain in the hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder.
The study didn’t delve into specific injuries, but instead asked people about general aches in different body areas. So it’s hard to know how serious the problems were, said Tom Swain, a researchers with the Center for Injury Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “You don’t have to sustain a serious injury to have pain. It could just be sore muscles,” said Swain, who wasn’t involved in the study.
Studies have tied yoga to health gains ranging from lower blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate to improvements in depression, anxiety and sleep problems. Plus, based on other research, yoga may not be any riskier than other forms of exercise, according to the researchers behind the current study.
The study’s investigators, led by Marc Campo of Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., reported their findings in the Journal of Body work & Movement Therapies.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 354 people, mostly women, who practiced at two yoga studios. Classes there ranged from gentle, “restorative” yoga to fast-paced Vinyasa-style. Each study participant was surveyed twice, one year apart.
Nearly all (87%) said they’d had pain in at least one body area during that year. About two-thirds said their pain had improved because of yoga, while one-fifth believed yoga had worsened some of the aches – often in the wrist or hand.
Meanwhile, almost 11% said they’d developed a new injury they attributed to yoga. For about 5%, the pain actually cropped up during class. Again, the upper extremities were often the problem area. That, the researchers speculate, might be because yoga can include a lot of weight-bearing in the hands – in poses such as downward-facing dog.
Talk about seeing glass half empty – how about a title like “Two-thirds of people doing yoga find existing aches improved.” Any drug company would be thrilled to have stats like that for any of their products.
Women inherently have greater lower body strength and less upper body strength than men. This difference only increases with age. So, women do need to be careful and start slow with yoga to avoid potential injury.
On the other hand, yoga is a great weight bearing exercise that can prevent or even reverse osteoporosis. Again, an issue more common in women than men.
The Bottom Line:
All exercise has a potential for benefit and a risk for injury. I have experienced aches and pain from running, swimming, weight lifting, tennis, cycling and yes, yoga. In the case of yoga, I didn’t listen to my body or the instructor rather tried to keep up with those that were much more experienced than I. I highly recommend yoga as a regular part of your exercise routine.
Source: August 3, 2017 National Institutes of Health
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