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Can Yoga Solve America’s Opioid Abuse Crisis?

Could the solution to America’s opioid overdose crisis be as close as the nearest yoga studio?  

A new study from the VA San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego found that veterans with chronic low back pain responded well enough to twice-weekly yoga class to cut back on or eliminate the use of opioid pain medications.  The study followed 150 military veterans with an average of 15 years of chronic low back pain.  Researchers noted that addressing the pain with yoga also reduced side effects.

Many patients may require more than yoga to handle their pain, but the study underscores the growing need for more options and a balanced treatment approach.      

And those options may be as critical now as ever before. Another study, released August 7, suggests that the scope of the opioid crisis may be even broader than Americans suspected.  A University of Virginia researcher reviewed death certificates in which a specific drug was not listed as cause of overdose.  Using a prediction equation, Professor Christopher Ruhm found that deaths from opioid overdose could be 24% higher than initially reported.   Underreporting was particularly prevalent in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.  

“These two studies demonstrate that addressing the opioid epidemic requires federal policy initiatives and alignment from multiple public and private sectors to ensure patients have a wide range of innovative treatment options available,” explained Anita Gupta, DO, PharmD, currently an anesthesiologist at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and a steering committee member of the Alliance for Balanced Pain Management.  The alliance advocates for improved health plan coverage of non-pharmacologic pain treatments such as chiropractic and physical therapy as well as additional medication options.

According to current estimates, 91 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose, while 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.  

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