Yoga Improves Fall Risk and Balance

Across America yoga has become more and more popular. Those who practice regular yoga claim that it helps with things such as pain, anxiety, and overall better sense of well being. As a PM&R physician, I have often prescribed yoga as a form of exercise and healing for my patients. Over the past weekend, I decided that I needed to quantify the net treatment of yoga on some of these claims. The first article I found was one on balance and fall risk. I decided this was a good place to begin, as falls are a significant cause of morbidity in the elderly. I began with putting both balance deficit and falls into the diagnoses that we are going to measure.

The article I read showed a 16% decrease in the patients' "fear of falling" and an 18% improvement in balance after only 8 weeks of yoga.  These numbers are statistically significant, as they will provide patients with an overall improved quality of life.  As you can see below, however, with only an 18% improvement in balance, the Treatment Grade for yoga is still only grade "E".

The reason that yoga as a treatment has such a low score is that an 18% improvement in the main outcome measure is actually not that high when compared to other treatments for other diseases. Some treatments for some diseases are nearly 100 percent effective or Grade A. But many treatments in medicine are actually Grade C, D, or E, when you actually take a hard scientific look at them.

Though there seems to be no bad side effects from doing yoga, we do have to compare yoga as a treatment to other treatments for balance deficits, such as a medications.  We would want to know if a medication was greater than 18% effective for treating our diagnosis, as that would play a role in our decision to take the medication or not.

To repeat, the reason that yoga as a treatment was only given a grade of "E" is that is what the improvement was on the main outcome measure scale that we used.

There was a control group of inactive people. In the future, a placebo group, and a group who performed a different type of exercise than yoga would be a good comparisons to yoga.

Yoga is a promising treatment for patients who fall and for those who have balance problems.  I will continue to read about yoga and put those numbers in the STAR™ Blocks. STAR™ stands for statistic and a reference. This way, we will be able see what other good medical benefits yoga may actually have and compare those benefits to other treatments for other conditions.

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