Skip to main content

NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Yoga for Pain

September 2020
Image of a woman doing yoga at home

Yoga may help relieve low-back pain and neck pain, but it has not been shown to be helpful for some other painful conditions such as headache, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the 2012 National Interview Survey (NHIS), approximately 9.5 percent of U.S. adults and 3.1 percent of U.S. children practiced yoga in 2012. Although most of the adults surveyed who practice yoga reported doing so for wellness-related reasons, many said they practiced yoga to treat a specific health condition, including pain. This issue of the digest provides a summary of available research on yoga for pain, including fibromyalgia, low-back pain, headaches, neck pain, and arthritis.

What the Science Says: 
Yoga for Pain

Condition and Summary of Current Research

Recent systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials provide encouraging evidence that some mind and body practices such as yoga may help relieve some fibromyalgia symptoms.

Read more about the research on yoga for fibromyalgia symptoms

For patients with chronic low-back pain, recent evidence-based clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Physicians gave a strong recommendation based on moderate-quality evidence that clinicians and patients should initially select nonpharmacologic treatment with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, or mindfulness-based stress reduction. The guidelines also strongly recommend, based on low-quality evidence, several mind and body approaches, including yoga.

Read more about the research on yoga for low-back pain

There is some limited evidence that yoga may provide short-term improvements for neck pain.

Read more about the research on yoga for neck pain

Only a few studies have been conducted on yoga for headaches, so there aren’t enough data to determine if yoga has beneficial effects for this pain condition.

Read more about the research on yoga for headache

Results from clinical trials suggest that some mind and body practices, including yoga, may be beneficial additions to conventional treatment plans for patients with arthritis.

Read more about the research on yoga for arthritis

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH website at NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.


Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.