Health Notes: Yoga for back problems, walking eases leg pain

You, our readers, have asked for it, so SNEWS® is delivering it: This is the second in an occasional series of Health Notes reports that will take a look at a one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. Research includes: Yoga eases back pain, and walking slows arterial disease.
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You, our readers, have asked for it, so SNEWS® is delivering it: This is the second in an occasional series of Health Notes reports that will take a look at a one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We'll focus on news you can use and present them in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand. We hope you will gain nuggets of information and condensed insights that will help you serve your customers better and conduct your business with more confidence. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you'd like to see it!

Yoga eases back pain
Taking back pain lying down may not be the best treatment, a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found. The study compared treating back pain three different ways: "viniyoga" yoga that includes gentle movements, doing nothing but reading about back pain, or doing a more traditional supervised program of aerobics, stretching and strengthening.  

Yoga won, hands-down.

All participants were followed for 26 weeks and could use medications for back pain as needed. Both the yoga group and the exercise group participated in 12 weekly, 75-minute classes. At 12 weeks, the yoga group had better back function than the exercise group or the self-help group, although all reported about the same pain levels.

The difference came after a few more weeks: At 26 weeks, the yoga group reported better back function, less pain and less use of pain medications than the other two groups.

"Back pain is a huge problem," said Karen J. Sherman, Ph.D, lead study author and an associate scientific investigator for the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle. "Most of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives. Many of us will be dealing with it for a number of years or possibly the rest of our lives."

Basically, the study affirms that a gentle form of yoga, practiced regularly, can benefit and ease back pain. It does not invalidate a supervised and more traditional exercise program as prescribed by some physical therapists.

For the scientifically minded: Annals of Internal Medicine Tip, Vol. 143, Issue 12. Click here to see the study.

Walking slows arterial disease
Lacing up walking shoes for a fitness stroll three times a week is also great medicine for those with peripheral arterial disease, which is leg pain caused by impaired blood flow in the arteries.

In a study out this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that those who walked at least three times a week had less decline in walking distance and speed than patients who walked less often. Subjects, who were 55 or older, walked unsupervised as a part of the study.

Authors concluded that simple, unsupervised walking at home can reap many benefits for patients with leg pain caused by arterial disease. They also suggest that doctors should make more of an effort to encourage people to increase how much they walk since the disease can affect millions.

For the scientifically minded: Annals of Internal Medicine Tip, Vol. 144, Issue 1. Click here to see the study. A summary for the consumer (or for you, if you'd like less techy language) is also available by clicking here.

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