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VA Study Shows Yoga Can Lower Dependence On Pain Meds

Veterans practice yoga at the La Jolla VA, August 1, 2017.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: Veterans practice yoga at the La Jolla VA, August 1, 2017.

The Veterans Health Administration is searching for ways to wean veterans off pain medication. A new study from the San Diego VA shows that the right kind of yoga can be a long term solution.

The Veterans Health Administration is searching for ways to wean veterans off pain medication. A new study from the San Diego VA shows that the right kind of yoga can be a long term solution.

“It’s an ongoing battle. A struggle. Sometimes I’ve had to call in sick because I can’t get out of bed,” said Matthew Castro, who works at the VA in San Diego. Lower back pain has haunted him since his time in the Navy.

Castro has three prescriptions for pain pills, but he said that he rarely fills them after he began learning yoga nearly three years ago. He was one of 150 veterans who were part of a VA study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on July 20, 2017.

Video by Katie Schoolov

“I wasn’t too sure about it, but I thought it would be a better option than to be put on more medication,” Castro said.

Researchers at the San Diego VA looked specifically at how yoga can lessen lower back pain among veterans. It’s a group that hasn’t been studied outside the VA, Researcher Erik Groessl said.

“Military veterans have higher rates of back pain, probably due to rigorous training as well as combat experiences,” Groessl said.

Photo caption:

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Veteran Matthew Castro practices yoga at the La Jolla VA, August 1, 2017.

Vets are older and have more health problems than the other groups that have been studied. The study showed vets who took a yoga class twice a week were using less pain medication and had a better range of motion.

“At six months we found less fatigue. We found overall quality of life was better,” Groessl said.

Roughly 70 percent of VAs nationwide offer some form of yoga. What they offer varies widely. The San Diego study gives VA doctors a clearer sense of what actually works. A separate study is underway in Indiana to document the benefits of yoga on PTSD.

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