Poses instead of pills provide relief from persistent pain

KANSAS CITY, Mo -- You might think that pills are the only way to get relief from persistent pain, but new research shows you may want to find a tai chi or yoga class.

Shirley Perry is taking a stand against back pain -- a pose instead of a pill.

"I don't feel near as stiff as I was before and I don't take near as much pain medication," Perry said.

She says she's taking one prescription pain pill a day compared to three or four a day last spring. The difference? She started participating in a chair yoga class at Yoga Patch and Arbor Vitae in Waldo.

"They're learning to deal with the pain through breath or releasing that altogether through the stretching and the movement," said Maria Murphy, the studio owner.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health reviewed more than 100 studies of complementary health approaches. They found yoga appears to be effective and safe for back pain. So is acupuncture.

The review found that for knee pain from osteoarthritis, acupuncture and tai chi seem to help. For neck pain, massage therapy. For severe headaches, relaxation techniques.

"I do feel like there's a shift happening where people are finding that pills can create other side effects they don't want," said Brandi West, an acupuncturist with East Meets West.

Although West knows the non-drug approaches take more time and effort than just popping a pill.

Perry says yoga has been worth it.

"I feel so much better. My pain level maybe some days basically at night may be a two or three, but nothing like what it was," she said.

The studio owner says talk with your instructor beforehand. Poses may be altered so you get relief and avoid more pain.

The review is published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Researchers hope doctors will use the findings to help their patients find non-drug approaches that are appropriate for their particular type of pain.