Therapists have known for a while that yoga can help relieve back pain, but how good a pain reliever is it? Now comes research Boston University that suggests that it’s just as good as physical therapy. A BU news release reports that the researchers conducted a randomized trial of 320 people ages 18 to 64 with nonspecific chronic low back pain. Participants attended 12 yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, or were given an educational book and newsletters about managing back pain. That was followed by a 40-week maintenance period with yoga drop-in classes or home practice for the yoga group, and physical therapy booster sessions or home practice for the physical therapy group. How did it work? About half the people in both the yoga and physical therapy groups reported reduced pain and disability, compared to about one-fifth of participants in the education group. The yoga and physical therapy participants were about 20 percent less likely to use any pain medication at 12 weeks compared to the education group. “Finding that yoga is as effective as physical therapy for chronic low back pain is important in that yoga can be performed long-term at home or in group settings where there is social support, it has additional mental health benefits, and may be a cost-effective alternative,” says researcher Janice Weinberg.