Yoga vs Physical Therapy

The ancient Indian practice of yoga has jumped into the mainstream public in the quest for improved physical health and mental well-being. A growing number of health benefits has been shown from the practice of yoga once per week. Could yoga be the answer to many of our health woes?

What is Yoga?

Yoga originated over 2,000 years ago in India as a spiritual and physical practice. Yoga as practiced within the United States typically consists of physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana). Some of the popular yoga styles such as hatha, vinyasa, iyengar and bikram utilize these elements.

Benefits of Yoga

After examining the effectiveness of specific yoga postures, studies have shown significant results for:

  • Chronic pain
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Prenatal Health
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes

Chronic Low Back Pain

Participants in a yoga program showed significantly more reduction in pain, anxiety, depression and spinal mobility compared to those who completed physical therapy exercises. Medical professionals can feel confident recommending yoga for patients particularly as yoga was not associated with any serious adverse events.

Chronic Neck Pain

Yoga may be beneficial to reduce chronic neck pain.

Yoga vs. Physical Therapy

Do these studies reveal that yoga is a better option for patients seeking to address chronic low back or neck pain? As the population ages, the number of individuals with low back pain is likely to increase. Physical therapists should not view yoga as a competitor but rather a recommendation to assist in treating these complex patients.

Physical Therapy and Yoga

Physical therapists are movement experts who will provide individualized assessment for patients seeking to address musculoskeletal pain such as chronic lower back pain through a combination of hands-on skills, prescribed exercise and education. An important partner in the PT regime of prescribed exercise and education can be a recommendation for yoga. PTs should be sure to educate their patients to search for an experienced yoga instructor who will be attentive to their unique physical restrictions.

Are Aches and Pains Getting in the Way of Your Daily Activities?

If simple home interventions are not helping to lessen aches, pains and discomfort, it’s time to see a physical therapist. 

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