For three months, the two class groups participated in weekly 75-minute-long classes designed for patients who had never tried either yoga or stretching.
The yoga group was exposed to the techniques of "viniyoga," which involved breathing exercises, deep relaxation and a range of simple postures.
Those in the stretching class engaged in strengthening exercises alongside stretching techniques targeting all the major muscle groups, with emphasis on the trunk and legs.
In addition, the yoga and stretching groups received instructional videos and were asked to practice 20 minutes a day.
Those in the self-care group received a copy of The Back Pain Helpbook, which outlines causes of back pain and offers advice centered on solo exercise techniques and potentially helpful lifestyle changes.
All the participants were interviewed midway through treatment, at the end of treatment, and three months after treatment was completed.
The result: Although back-related function improved among all the participants, those in the yoga and stretching groups were functionally better off than the self-care group at the study's end and three months later.
Yoga and stretching participants were also twice as likely as the self-care group to have cut back on pain medication.
"In both groups, people had less pain and were more able to carry on with their lives in terms of the activities of daily living," Sherman said.
Sherman noted that the yoga classes were highly physical in nature, while the stretching classes involved an above-average amount of long-held stretching and relaxation.
"It's worth noting that not all classes are the same," she said. "You need to find one that's appropriate for your situation. And depending where you are that can be tricky, particularly
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