Yoga and physical therapy each have long-lasting benefits for people who have co-occurring back pain and sleep disturbances, according to Boston Medical Center researchers.

Sleep quality improved significantly for study participants who took 12 weeks of yoga classes or one-to-one physical therapy. And the improvements were evident one year later, said study lead Eric Roseen, DC, MSc. Furthermore, participants whose pain improved earlier in the study (after six weeks) were three-and-a-half times more likely to sleep better after the full, 12-week treatment.

Yoga and physical therapy were found to be similarly effective for lessening pain and improving physical function, reducing the need for pain medications, the researchers added.

The findings show long-term potential for non-pharmacological management of two conditions that are often seen together but can be tricky to treat with drugs, Roseen and colleagues wrote.

“Given the serious risks of combining pain and sleep medications, nonpharmacologic approaches should be considered for these patients,” Roseen explained.

The randomized controlled trial included 320 adults with chronic low back pain. Over 90% were found to suffer from poor sleep. Previous studies have found that 59% of people with chronic low back pain have low sleep quality, and 53% are diagnosed with insomnia disorder, the researchers reported.