Both have their benefits, and the third 'alternative' exercise, qigong, could as well—but there just aren't enough studies that prove it just yet, say researchers.
With around 80 percent of adults suffering from low back pain at some stage, it's important to discover positive ways to counter it.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University took another look at 32 studies that had researched the benefits of yoga, tai chi—which uses gentle exercises and stretching—and qigong, where slow and fluid movements are employed.
All three exercises helped with low back pain, and helped reduce pain, improved function, and lessened the disability caused by the pain. They also helped psychological problems related to back pain, including depression and anxiety.
Overall, regular yoga exercise was the best for reducing pain, but tai chi was better for easing acute pain, especially among men in their twenties. There were only three studies into qigong, and although the findings did show the exercise helped, more evidence is needed, the researchers felt.
But all three could well be effective treatments and alternatives to pain medication, surgery or nerve-blockers, all standard responses from conventional medicine, lead researcher Juyoung Parks concluded.