Photo credit: pricenfees.com via flickr.com.

Ask around and there’s one complaint you’re likely to hear among active riders age 25 and above: lower back pain. Whether you’re coping with a previous injury or not, muscle tightness and discomfort in the lower back seems to come with the territory, especially for senior equestrians and for pros riding five or more horses a day.

The good news, according to The New York Times:  there’s new evidence to suggest that traditional therapies may be less effective than something many of us already do all the time—good, old-fashioned yoga. According to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga can be an effective treatment for those struggling with chronic, mild to moderate lower back pain.

The study, conducted by Janice Weinberg, a professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health, looked at a survey group of 320 chronic lower back pain sufferers ages 18-64. Divided into thirds, a ‘physical therapy’ group received 15 sessions of PT over three months; a second, ‘education’ group received a book on back pain and periodic newsletters about back pain therapy. The third group received 12 weekly sessions with a yoga instructor. For all three sections, questionnaires were used to measure back pain intensity and disability.

Half of the participants in both the PT and yoga groups saw reduced pain and disability, and drug use to cope with back pain was reduced by half. By contrast, only a fifth of participants that received ‘education’ only showed signs of physical improvement; pain improved for less than 15 percent and only a quarter reduced their use of medication.

Though researchers controlled variables across all groups (including age, race, BMI index, annual income, etc.) the yoga group proved to be more effective than the PT group at retaining its members, with more study dropouts coming from both the education and physical therapy sections.

The verdict? If you struggle with back pain, try adding a yoga class to your weekly workout schedule. You might surprise yourself with the result.