The NHS could save money if it funded £300 specialist yoga sessions, according to a major new study that found scientific proof that yoga works.
Researchers studied two groups of around 150 people with recurrent or chronic back pain for 12 weeks – comparing those who attended yoga classes with sufferers who relied solely on support from their GP.
They found those who did not attend the classes took 12 days off work, but those who did only missed four.
Back pain is estimated to cost the NHS £1.37 billion each year. It is one of the most common conditions the NHS treats, with 2.6 million sufferers seeking advice from their GP each year.
Chief investigator professor David Torgerson, the director of the University of York trial, said: “Back pain represents a significant burden to the NHS in the UK and to society as a whole.
“As well as the associated health care costs, it is also a major cause of work absenteeism which leads to a productivity loss to society.
“While yoga has been shown as an effective intervention for treating chronic and low back pain, until now there has been little evidence on its cost effectiveness.”
Wendover-based yoga teacher Liz Brown said: “I’m delighted there has been some time and money invested in properly evidencing it.
“This could save the NHS quite a lot of money and industry lost days in sickness. It is proper statistical evidence to support something that people who practise yoga have known for some time.”
The 36-year-old teacher has trained in yoga techniques for those with cancer or other potentially terminal illnesses.
She believes that if the NHS did offer specialist sessions, they should only be run by qualified specialist instructors who ‘know what you can do and what you can’t’.
She said the study shows that yoga practioners are ‘working with the medical profession not against it’ and that back pain has ‘lots of knock-on effects for sufferers’ lives, both emotional and physical’ which yoga can help address.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: “
“Yoga is an intervention that has been proven to make their everyday lives easier and pain more manageable.
“We would hope that on the back of this, more people with back pain are encouraged to take up the yoga programme.”