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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:
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