Abstract

Chronic low-back pain (cLBP) is a prevalent condition, and rates are higher among military veterans. cLBP is a persistent condition, and treatment options have either modest effects or a significant risk of side-effects, which has led to recent efforts to explore mind-body intervention options and reduce opioid medication use. Prior studies of yoga for cLBP in community samples, and the main results of a recent trial with military veterans, indicate that yoga can reduce back-related disability and pain intensity. Secondary outcomes from the trial of yoga with military veterans are presented here. In the study, 150 military veterans (Veterans Administration patients) with cLBP were randomized to either yoga or a delayed-treatment group receiving usual care between 2013 and 2015. Assessments occurred at baseline, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and 6 months. Intent-to-treat analyses were conducted. Yoga classes lasting 60 minutes each were offered twice weekly for 12 weeks. Yoga sessions consisted of physical postures, movement, focused attention, and breathing techniques. Home practice guided by a manual was strongly recommended. The primary outcome measure was Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire scores after 12 weeks. Secondary outcomes included pain intensity, pain interference, depression, fatigue, quality of life, self-efficacy, and medication usage. Yoga participants improved more than delayed-treatment participants on pain interference, fatigue, quality of life, and self-efficacy at 12 weeks and/or 6 months. Yoga participants had greater improvements across a number of important secondary health outcomes compared to controls. Benefits emerged despite some veterans facing challenges with attending yoga sessions in person. The findings support wider implementation of yoga programs for veterans, with attention to increasing accessibility of yoga programs in this population.

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