Background: Although yoga is increasingly being provided to active duty soldiers and veterans, studies with military populations are limited and effects on chronic pain are largely unknown. We reviewed the existing body of literature and provide recommendations for future research. Methods: We conducted a literature review of electronic databases (PubMed, PsychINFO, Web of Science, Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, Conference Proceedings Citation Index-Science, and Conference Proceedings Citation Index-Social Science & Humanities). The studies were reviewed for characteristics such as mean age of participants, sample size, yoga type, and study design. Only peer-reviewed studies were included in the review. Results: The search yielded only six studies that examined pain as an outcome of yoga for military populations. With one exception, studies were with veteran populations. Only one study was conducted with Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans. One study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Four of the five studies remaining used pre/post design, while the last study used a post-only design. Conclusions: Studies on the use of yoga to treat chronic pain in military populations are in their infancy. Methodological weaknesses include small sample sizes, a lack of studies with key groups (active duty, OEF/IEF veterans), and use of single group uncontrolled designs (pre/post; post only) for all but one study. Future research is needed to address these methodological limitations and build on this small body of literature.
Literature review of research on chronic pain and yoga in military populations