Tag Archives: yoga

Teens with Eating Disorders Try Yoga

If the thought of yoga doesn’t bring to mind long-haired, half-naked gurus in India, it probably makes you think of thin young people in pretzel poses. True that, but it’s also become popular among populations that you might not expect. Yoga increasingly is being incorporated into treatment programs for young people who may be too thin or too fat – adolescents with eating disorders.

Yoginis relax and stretch. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/zivpu/Creative Commons License)

Dr. Cora C. Breuner helped conduct a study of 50 girls and 4 boys with diagnosed eating disorders. Participants were randomized to treatment with standard care (every-other-week appointments with physicians or dieticians) or standard care plus individualized yoga for 12 weeks. The yoga group showed significantly reduced food preoccupation immediately after each yoga session and significantly decreased Eating Disorder Examination scores at 12 weeks (J. Adolesc. Health;2010;46:346-51).

Speaking at the annual meeting of the North Pacific Pediatric Society, she gave a brief update: the teens in the yoga group showed greater improvements in weight a year after the study ended compared with the control group.

Dr. Cora C. Breuner (Sherry Boschert/IMNG Medical Media)

“Pretty much every eating disorders unit in the country now has yoga,” said Dr. Breuner, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, Seattle.

I don’t know about every eating disorders program, but a quick look on the Web found plenty that include yoga and lots of independent yoga classes geared toward people with eating disorders. On this list of eating disorder treatment programs from EDreferral.com, for example, yoga is mentioned by nine facilities in California and one each in Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. I found others online in Michigan and Washington, too, with just a few clicks.

Dr. Breuner’s 2010 study isn’t the only one endorsing yoga for eating disorders. Here’s another (Psychology of Women Quarterly 2005;29:207-19). Columbia University reported on this trend in 2007. And the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 on increasing use of yoga not only for kids with disorders but for healthy students, under the clever headline, “Namaste. Now Nap Time.”

Some of the key goals of yoga are to strengthen the mind and body and the connection between the two. It’s not a solo treatment for eating disorders, but it supplements the standard strategies of weight stabilization, nutrition therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family-based therapy.

That last one is another big change in the field that has happened since Stanford University researchers began showing in 2007 that it’s very helpful in treating children and adolescents to use parents as agents for positive change in a non-judgmental manner.

“Now we bring parents in right away to help with refeeding the child,” Dr. Breuner said.

It’s only a matter of time, I suspect, until we see special yoga classes for parents of children with eating disorders.

–Sherry Boschert (on Twitter @sherryboschert)

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Video of the Week: Live From ACC — Yoga Does a Heart Good

Yes, this week, Global Medical News Network staff are bringing you the very latest news live from the Annual Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

At the meeting, investigators reported that yoga can help reduce arrhythmia episodes in patients with atrial fibrillation, and improve their anxiety and depression. The study authors caution, however, that yoga is not a treatment for atrial fibrillation.

Our own video star Naseem S. Miller talked with the study’s lead author Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, who is an associate professor of medicine at University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City.

You can read her story at Internal Medicine News, where you can find all of our coverage of ACC.

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Big Pain, Little Relief

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had back pain. When that request was made at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Workshop on Deconstructing Back Pain, almost everyone in the room raised a hand, including me.

Photo by Dave77459 via Flickr Creative Commons


In fact, low back pain affects 1 in 4 adults, of whom 10%-15% go on to develop chronic pain, defined as lasting more than 3 months. For 85% of those individuals, there is no specific cause and no reliably effective treatment. Professional guidelines advise against the use of imaging studies, narcotics, or surgery in these patients, yet rates of all three have increased dramatically in the last decade. 

“Chronic opioid use is not a good answer for most people. They have huge side effects, they only work for a short time, give limited symptom relief but do not really get you functioning again,” NCCAM director Dr. Josephine Briggs told me. And there are no good guidelines as to which patients should be sent for imaging, or when. “There is a general feeling that these methods are overused, that they don’t necessarily yield an outcome that helps in management.” 

For nonspecific chronic back pain, the guidelines suggest certain non-drug therapies, including exercise, spinal manipulation, acupuncture, yoga, and massage, which have shown at least some benefit. But the evidence base for alternative treatments is far from comprehensive. 

And importantly, there is nothing available that will help prevent a patient with acute pain from going on to develop chronic pain. Most acute back pain resolves within 6 weeks, but how does the clinician identify the patients who will progress without more intensive intervention? Some workshop participants suggested a Framingham-like longitudinal study to look at that question. 

The 22 panelists, tasked with advising NCCAM on back pain research priorities, also discussed the need for a better definition of chronic back pain that might include severity and function as well as duration, and the need for standardized outcome measures in back pain studies. 

Given the heterogenous nature of back pain, its enormous associated health care costs, and the failure of conventional medicine to address it, the NCCAM—along with other branches of the National Institutes of Health—have deemed it a major research priority. 

According to Dr. Briggs, “The gaps are huge. Back pain is a really tough problem. It’s an area for which we here at the NIH realize that we need to help doctors and patients. We need more science because our current strategies are just not working as well as we wish they would.” 

—Miriam E. Tucker  (@MiriamETucker on Twitter)
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