A review of previous research studying the effectiveness of yoga for chronic (>3 months) low back pain patients found strong evidence to support yoga for short term improvements in pain, back specific disability, and general overall improvement. Over the long term, there was also strong evidence to suggest yoga was effective for pain relief. However, there was only moderate evidence to suggest that it could improve the disabilities arising from low back pain over the long term.
A recent Canadian Chiropractic Guideline Initiative suggests the use of supervised yoga for short term improvement in pain and neck disability for chronic grade I-II neck associated problem (no nerve involvement) patients. Other treatment options for these chronic neck pain patients included spinal manipulation with soft tissue therapy, high dose massage, supervised exercise, advice alone, care from multiple methods/practitioners, or stress self-management.
Therefore, for chronic neck and back pain, yoga can be a treatment option along with other choices like spinal manipulation, soft tissue therapy, patient education and home exercises. The evidence-informed patient can decide to use what recent research suggests works, use the clinical experience of healthcare practitioners, or continue to use what has worked best in the past.
Cramer H et al, A systematic review and Meta-analysis of Yoga for Low Back Pain, Clin J Pain 2013.
Bussieres A et al, The Treatment of Neck Pain-Associated Disorders and Whiplash-Associated Disorders: A Clinical Practice Guideline, JMPT 2016.