MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

A new study evaluated the effects of yoga and eurythmy therapy compared to conventional physiotherapy exercises in patients with chronic low back pain.

In this three-armed, multicentre, randomized trial, patients with chronic low back pain were treated for 8 weeks in group sessions (75 minutes once per week). They received either:

  1. Yoga exercises
  2. Eurythmy
  3. Physiotherapy

The primary outcome was patients’ physical disability (measured by RMDQ) from baseline to week 8. Secondary outcome variables were pain intensity and pain-related bothersomeness (VAS), health-related quality of life (SF-12), and life satisfaction (BMLSS). Outcomes were assessed at baseline, after the intervention at 8 weeks, and at a 16-week follow-up. Data of 274 participants were used for statistical analyses.

The results showed no significant differences between the three groups for the primary and secondary outcomes. In all groups, RMDQ decreased comparably at 8 weeks but did not reach clinical meaningfulness. Pain intensity and pain-related bothersomeness decreased, while the quality of life increased in all 3 groups. In explorative general linear models for the SF-12’s mental health component, participants in the eurythmy arm benefitted significantly more compared to physiotherapy and yoga. Furthermore, within-group analyses showed improvements of SF-12 mental score for yoga and eurythmy therapy only. All interventions were safe.

Everyone knows what physiotherapy or yoga is, I suppose. But what is eurythmy?

It is an exercise therapy that is part of anthroposophic medicine. It consists of a set of specific movements that were developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), the inventor of anthroposophic medicine, in conjunction with Marie von Sievers (1867-1948), his second wife.

Steiner stated in 1923 that eurythmy has grown out of the soil of the Anthroposophical Movement, and the history of its origin makes it almost appear to be a gift of the forces of destiny. Steiner also wrote that it is the task of the Anthroposophical Movement to reveal to our present age that spiritual impulse that is suited to it. He claimed that, within the Anthroposophical Movement, there is a firm conviction that a spiritual impulse of this kind must enter once more into human evolution. And this spiritual impulse must perforce, among its other means of expression, embody itself in a new form of art. It will increasingly be realized that this particular form of art has been given to the world in Eurythmy.

Consumers learning eurythmy are taught exercises that allegedly integrate cognitive, emotional, and volitional elements. Eurythmy exercises are based on speech and direct the patient’s attention to their own perceived intentionality. Proponents of Eurythmy believe that, through this treatment, a connection between internal and external activity can be experienced. They also make many diffuse health claims for this therapy ranging from stress management to pain control.

There is hardly any reliable evidence for eurythmy, and therefore the present study is exceptional and noteworthy. One review concluded that “eurythmy seems to be a beneficial add-on in a therapeutic context that can improve the health conditions of affected persons. More methodologically sound studies are needed to substantiate this positive impression.” This positive conclusion is, however, of doubtful validity. The authors of the review are from an anthroposophical university in Germany. They included studies in their review that were methodologically too weak to allow any conclusions.

So, does the new study provide the reliable evidence that was so far missing? I am afraid not!

The study compared three different exercise therapies. Its results imply that all three were roughly equal. Yet, we cannot tell whether they were equally effective or equally ineffective. The trial was essentially an equivalence study, and I suspect that much larger sample sizes would have been required in order to identify any true differences if they at all exist. Lastly, the study (like the above-mentioned review) was conducted by proponents of anthroposophical medicine affiliated with institutions of anthroposophical medicine. I fear that more independent research would be needed to convince me of the value of eurythmy.

5 Responses to Eurythmy for Chronic Low Back Pain?

  • ‘Eurythmy’ comes in the category of ‘For those who like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like.”

    It is a ‘Condimentary medicine’:
    Nice to have, imparts flavour, but has no substantial effect on any pathology.
    Bless.
    (Harriet Hall liked my neologism!)

    Harmless enough (probably).
    But the anthroposophic gobbledegook which runs parallell to eurythmy will inveigle the gullible and vulnerable, and that is to be deprecated.

  • Rudolf Steiner has a lot to answer for – anthroposophic medicine, Steiner schools, biodynamic farming…

    Curiously three of my very favourite wines are produced in biodynamic wineries – Coyam (Argentina), Querciabella (Tuscany) and Seresin Estate (New Zealand, though that one took a dive after 2017 when the owner decided to fire his entire staff and restructure the company).

  • I add to the list of Steiner’s achievements, his time as secretary of the German branch of Theosophy (before a schism and his founding of ‘Anthroposophy’ in 1912).

    Ironically, the Theosophical Society’s London HQ was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens on the site of a house in which Dickens lived, is now a splendid building in Tavistock Square, and when the Theosophists ran out of loot in 1925, was bought by and since has been the HQ of the British Medical Association!

    • EE. It is time for you to define what physiotherapy is. The profession is in disarray as it has got so little methodology that works. You will see that it has tried to take so much from chiropractic and osteopathy as so little of what it does is evidence based. e.g. Tens, ultrasound McKenzie exercises, pilates etc. The graduates last only seven years in practice before they give up. Why????

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