ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
CANCER
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Selenium, Omega-3s May Stave Off Colorectal Cancer
CAREGIVING
Stressed Health Care Workers Battle 'Compassion Fatigue'
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
DIABETES
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
For Fitness, Cutting Calories May Not Be Enough
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Pilots May Face Greater Cancer Risk
Global Warming Linked to Heightened Kidney Stone Risk
Cleaning House May Be Risky for Women With Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
FITNESS
Barefoot Best for Running?
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter
Trans-Fat Ban In New York City Is Proving successful
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
MEN'S HEALTH
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
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Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain

(HealthDay News) -- Practicing yoga can help ease chronic lower back pain, a new study shows.

Researchers divided 90 people, aged 23 to 66, who had mild to moderate functional disability as a result of back pain into two groups.

One group did 90-minute sessions of Iyengar yoga twice a week for six months. The other group continued whatever medical therapy or treatments they'd been doing.

At the three-month and six-month marks, a greater proportion of those who'd done yoga reported improvements in their pain and functioning as measured by questionnaires that asked about pain levels, difficulty performing physical tasks and pain medications being taken. Yoga participants also reported fewer symptoms of depression.

"The yoga group had less pain, less functional disability and less depression, compared with the control group," study author Kimberly Williams, a research assistant professor in the department of community medicine at West Virginia University, said in a statement. "These were statistically significant and clinically important changes that were maintained six months after the intervention."

The study is published in the September issue of Spine.

Iyengar yoga, a form of hatha yoga that's popular in the United States, builds strength, flexibility and balance by taking participants through a series of specific poses.

Dr. Todd J. Albert, chairman of the department of orthopedics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia, said the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was well-designed.

"I have found yoga and Pilates are great for chronic low back pain," Albert said. "There is so much concentration on core strengthening, which is critical for people who have been de-conditioned."

Lower back pain can cause people to stop exercising because of discomfort or fear of causing further injury to their back. The lack of activity can cause the back muscles to become "de-conditioned," or weakened, setting up conditions for even more chronic pain.

Exercises such as yoga help reverse the muscle weakness by strengthening muscles of the mid-section, including the back extensors, abdominals and gluteus, which are key for stabilizing the trunk and decreasing the load on the spine.

"Strengthening those muscles is like creating a brace around your torso," Albert explained.

Lower back pain represents between 20 percent and 25 percent of medical claims and exceeds $34 billion in annual direct medical costs, according to background information in the study.

Mary Lou Galantino, a professor of physical therapy at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, said the study confirms previous research about the benefits of yoga for helping with conditions as varied as menopause and osteoarthritis. Other research has shown that yoga can improve mood in women with breast cancer.

"There is so much data excitingly pointing to the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of yoga," Galantino said. "I also believe there's a social aspect to yoga. It can foster a sense of community and overarching well-being."

Though strengthening the back is important, so are the spiritual and psychological aspects of yoga, including meditation and deep breathing, Galantino said.

"In order to have a holistic approach to one's well being, you want to get to the physical, the psychological, the emotional and the spiritual," said Galantino, a yoga instructor. "That is integrated care. If done with proper breathing, postures and meditation, yoga does all of that. You have to have all of the elements. If we westernize it and make it solely an athletic program, then you may not receive all of the benefits."

Though there are many causes of lower back pain, the culprit is often a herniated disc or arthritis. Though people suffering from back pain may worry that exercise could make the pain worse, it's not likely to as long as you don't overdo it, Albert said.

SOURCES: Todd J. Albert, M.D., chairman, department of orthopedics, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the Rothman Institute, Philadephia; Mary Lou Galantino, PT, Ph.D., professor, physical therapy, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; September 2009 Spine.