Components and reporting of yoga interventions for musculoskeletal conditions: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials

Lesley Ward*, Simon Stebbings, Daniel Cherkin, G. David Baxter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


To identify the content and reporting details of randomised controlled trials of yoga for musculoskeletal conditions through a systematic review of the literature.
Twenty electronic databases were searched to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of yoga interventions for musculoskeletal conditions. Eligibility criteria were full-text, peer reviewed articles, of RCTs with yoga as a primary intervention, on a population aged 18 years and over, with a clinical diagnosis of a musculoskeletal condition. Data relating to study characteristics, yoga styles, yoga practices, home practice, and reporting were extracted and summarised.

Seventeen articles met inclusion criteria, representing five musculoskeletal conditions: low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, kyphosis, and fibromyalgia. 15 studies were non-residential, and two were residential. Study duration ranged from 1 to 24 weeks; weekly dosage of yoga ranged from 1 to 56 h. Five styles of posture-based Hatha yoga were specified. Intervention content included seven yoga practises: postures, breathing, relaxation, meditation, philosophy, chanting, and cleansing practises. Ten studies either encouraged or requested home practice. Reporting details included class plans, posture lists, and diagrams. Due to insufficient detail regarding delivery of the yoga intervention only eight of the 17 interventions were considered replicable as reported.

Evaluation of study characteristics and yoga components indicated several areas of homogeneity across studies, suggesting an existing degree of standardisation. However, heterogeneity related to intervention content and reporting impeded determination of intervention content and delivery. Standardisation of content, nomenclature, and reporting details is recommended to enhance protocol transparency, replication, and comparison of intervention effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-919
Number of pages11
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date18 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


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