If you’ve experienced back pain at some point in your life, you’re not alone: Around 80 percent of adults in the US experience pain in the lower back at one point or another. Now, a review by researchers at Florida Atlantic University has concluded that movement-based mind-body exercises such as tai chi and yoga are effective at treating lower back pain.
The Florida researchers evaluated the efficacy of three such mind-body exercises: yoga, tai chi (which involves gentle physical exercises and stretches together with mindfulness), and qigong (a Chinese meditation therapy that’s centered on body awareness during slow and repetitive body movements). What the researchers found is that mind-body exercises such as yoga and tai chi were effective at reducing pain in the lower back, reducing pain-related disability, improving functional ability, and reducing depression and anxiety.
As well as strengthening the body, the researchers say mind-body exercises such as yoga and tai chi have the added benefit of strengthening the mind, which is especially good considering people with chronic back pain often suffer simultaneously from worsening mental health.
So, next time you’re feeling pain in your lower back, skip the pain meds and get yourself onto the yoga mat—your back will thank you later.