Health In Focus
  • U.S based clinical trial finds yoga, Tai Chi and acupuncture effective for chronic pain.
  • Study conducted by National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
  • Many Americans suffer from severe chronic pain that persists.

75 million Americans suffer from chronic pain but many of them do not receive any form of treatment. Pain, of any sort, affects the quality of life led by the individual and it can be caused as an associated condition of a particular disease or illness, or it could be the primary symptom of the disease.

It has long been known that alternate therapies that include yoga,Tai Chi and acupuncture could improve pain, however there lacks a strong medical evidence to prove the same. However, the popularity of yoga, Tai Chi and acupuncture have forced researchers to delve into the efficiency of these alternate treatment methods.
Yoga, Tai-Chi and Acupuncture Now Accepted by Researchers for Chronic Pain

Researchers from National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) have analyzed and reviewed data from clinical trials of Americans who underwent therapy for chronic pain using Yoga , Tai Chi or acupuncture, the study was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

An acute pain could be a searing pain that is debilitating but a chronic pain is reduced to a constant pain or pain that is associated with certain forms of physical exertion.

Effects of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can result in
  • Huge costs incurred on healthcare bills with a minimum estimate of $560-$635 billion annually.
  • Longer stay at the hospital
  • Numerous visits to the hospital as out patient care
  • Increased burden on the family
  • Reduced efficiency at work/ lower productivity
  • Inability to perform certain tasks
  • Long periods of chronic pain could affect mobility
  • Increased risk of psychiatric conditions among people with chronic pain.
  • 20% of Americans feel that pain interrupts their sleep.
The nagging sensation of pain can drive people into consuming painkillers above the normal recommended dosage and increase their risk for associated condition. Their inability to fall back into routine is another factor that could affect their mental health.

Dr. Richard L. Nahin who is the lead author and the lead Epidemiologist at NCCIH says "For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain. Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain."

Clinical Trial

To understand the effect of these alternate therapies in pain management and their probable side effects, the researchers analyzed 50 years of data which included 105 randomized controlled trials.

The study participants included people who suffered from chronic pain due to any of the following conditions The analysis carried out by the researchers found considerable evidence to support the use of certain alternate therapies for specific pains.
  • Yoga and acupuncture were found to be effective in back pain relief
  • Tai Chi and acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Short term benefit for neck pain was gained through the use of massage therapy.
  • Techniques meant for relaxation aided in relieving headache and migraine.
Lower degree of evidence pointed towards the use of the following therapies in the management of back pain Some amount of evidence was obtained in managing fibromyalgia using

Alternate Therapies

Alternate therapies are procedures that have been practiced by certain cultures for many centuries however their relevance and significance is gaining importance in mainstream medicine following such studies.


Yoga originated in India and is considered a subtle form of science that aims at integrating the body, mind and soul. It involves physical exercises that are called asanas with a special focus on breathing. Yoga is practiced by many people across the world as it also aids in flexibility, weight loss, a more cheerful disposition and is found to improve longevity. June 21st has been declared The International Yoga day, as a recognition of its significance in maintaining physical and mental well being.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi originated in China and it involves slow movements, aligning the body and bringing peace to the entire being. It is considered to be very effective in maintaining physical fitness, though it does not coincide with the regular fast paced activities meant for physical fitness.


Acupuncture is another method of treatment that originated in China and it involves the use of fine needles that are inserted at specific pressure points to relieve symptoms.

These alternate therapies have been in use for a long period fo time, but there haven't been sufficient evidence to support these procedures. However, this study conducted by researchers from NIH supports the effectiveness of these therapies in chronic pain.

Dr. David Shurtleff who is the Deputy Director of NCCIH said "These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non-drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions. It's important that continued research explore how these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations."

Advantages of Using These Therapies
  • The study by the NIH researchers did not find any side effects associated with these therapies
  • The studies found considerable evidence that supports the use of these therapies in pain relief.
  • These therapies do not involve the use of drugs.
  • Yoga and Tai Chi may be practiced at home once they are learnt from certified professionals.
  • These therapies also aid in relaxing the mind and are great stress busters.
References :
  1. AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain - (
  2. Safely Managing Chronic Pain - (
  3. Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development - (
  4. What is Tai Chi - (
  5. A brief history of acupuncture - (
Source: Medindia

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