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Airing Pain 55: More Power to You

Pre­scrip­tions for yoga and har­ness­ing the pow­er of social interaction

This edi­tion has been sup­port­ed by a grant from the Scot­tish Government.

In Air­ing Pain episode 55 we hear about two very dif­fer­ent ways of giv­ing peo­ple in pain the knowl­edge and pow­er to help themselves.

Will we soon be able to get a pre­scrip­tion of yoga on the NHS? Chris­tine John­son speaks to yoga teacher Anna Sem­lyen about a study that shows yoga can be an effec­tive and cost-effec­tive treat­ment for chron­ic low back pain. Sem­lyen, who helped design the pro­gramme used by the research tri­al, recalls how she has seen peo­ple get back into gar­den­ing or extreme sports after tak­ing up yoga. The research study found a sim­i­lar effect among the group of patients using yoga: reduced lev­els of dis­abil­i­ty and few­er days off work com­pared to the con­trol group. Not only is this a low-tech and cheap treat­ment, but it’s also empow­er­ing, argues Sem­lyen, as it lets peo­ple ‘be their own healers’.

‘How are you?’ Three lit­tle words often dread­ed by peo­ple in pain. Gareth Par­sons explains to Paul Evans why these sim­ple social rit­u­als can be so dif­fi­cult for peo­ple in pain and how social inter­ac­tions can instead be made empow­er­ing. Par­sons’ work on par­tic­i­pa­to­ry action research gets peo­ple in pain togeth­er to recog­nise the neg­a­tive atti­tudes or oppres­sion expe­ri­enced in dai­ly life and find ways to help them­selves. The real experts on pain are not the clin­i­cians of researchers, but the peo­ple who live with it every day, he argues.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Alter­na­tive ther­a­py, yoga, social con­tact, arthri­tis, back pain, med­ical research, rais­ing aware­ness, peer sup­port, exer­cise, stretch­ing, phys­io­ther­a­py, the biopsy­choso­cial mod­el, pain as a con­di­tion in its own right, relax­ation ther­a­py, mind­ful­ness, activ­i­ty-rest cycle, dis­crim­i­na­tion, oppres­sion, stig­ma and relationships.


  • Anna Sem­lyen, yoga teacher, British Wheel of Yoga
  • Gareth Par­sons, Lec­tur­er, Uni­ver­si­ty of South Wales.

More infor­ma­tion:

  • You can find out more about using yoga to help with low­er back pain and buy the yoga pro­gramme book and accom­pa­ny­ing CD from the project’s web­site: Yogafor­


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