Individuals who suffer from chronic low back pain can get relief by doing yoga, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. However, the relief is no greater than that derived from doing conventional stretching exercises.

Small trials had suggested that yoga might improve function and reduce symptoms of chronic low back pain, but this study set out to determine if yoga was more effective than stretching and also more effective than a self-care book that doctors could give their patients that included advice on preventing and managing pain.

For the study, 92 adults with chronic low back pain took 12 weekly yoga classes while 91 patients did conventional stretching exercises and 45 read the self-care book. At the end of the 12 weeks and then again at 26 weeks, the study’s authors measured the back-related functional status and pain level of the participants.

The yoga group had less pain and improved function over the group who read the self-care book at both times of measurement. The improvement was similar to those of the group that did conventional stretching exercises. The researchers noted in the article that the results seemed to indicate that the stretching involved in yoga was the reason for the decreased back pain, not the breathing and relaxation components.