Musculoskeletal conditions (MSCs) are the primary cause of disability and chronic pain in the developed world, affecting both functional ability and psychosocial health. The current review investigates the effectiveness of yoga on primary outcomes of functional ability, pain and psychosocial outcomes across a range of MSCs. A comprehensive search of 20 databases was conducted for full-text, randomized controlled trials of yoga in clinically diagnosed MSCs. Seventeen studies met the inclusion criteria, involving 1,626 participants with low back pain (LBP), osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), kyphosis or fibromyalgia. Studies were quality rated, and analysed for the effect of yoga on primary outcomes, immediately post-intervention. Twelve studies were rated as good quality. Yoga interventions produced a clinically significant improvement in functional outcomes in mild-to-moderate LBP and fibromyalgia, and showed a trend to improvement in kyphosis. Yoga significantly improved pain in OA, RA and mild-to-severe LBP. Psychosocial outcomes were significantly improved in mild-to-moderate LBP and OA. Meta-analysis of good-quality studies revealed a moderate treatment effect for yoga of -0.64 (95%CI -0.89 to -0.39) for functional outcomes and -0.61 (95%CI -0.97 to -0.26) for pain outcomes.
The review found that evidence indicates that yoga is an acceptable and safe intervention, which could result in clinically relevant improvements in pain and functional outcomes associated with a range of MSCs. Future analysis of outcomes which take into account the amount of yoga received by participants might offer insight into any putative duration or dosage effects of yoga interventions for MSCs.