Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, disabling condition that greatly compromises patient functioning. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of a 6-week twice per week Iyengar yoga (IY) program on IBS symptoms in adolescents and young adults (YA) with IBS compared with a usual-care waitlist control group.
Assessments of symptoms, global improvement, pain, health-related quality of life, psychological distress, functional disability, fatigue, and sleep were collected pre- and posttreatment. Weekly ratings of pain, IBS symptoms, and global improvement were also recorded until 2-month follow-up. A total of 51 participants completed the intervention (yoga = 29; usual-care waitlist = 22).
Baseline attrition was 24%. On average, the yoga group attended 75% of classes. Analyses were divided by age group. Relative to controls, adolescents (14–17 years) assigned to yoga reported significantly improved physical functioning, whereas YA (18–26 years) assigned to yoga reported significantly improved IBS symptoms, global improvement, disability, psychological distress, sleep quality, and fatigue. Although abdominal pain intensity was statistically unchanged, 44% of adolescents and 46% of YA reported a minimally clinically significant reduction in pain following yoga, and one-third of YA reported clinically significant levels of global symptom improvement. Analysis of the uncontrolled effects and maintenance of treatment effects for adolescents revealed global improvement immediately post-yoga that was not maintained at follow-up. For YA, global improvement, worst pain, constipation, and nausea were significantly improved postyoga, but only global improvement, worst pain, and nausea maintained at the 2-month follow-up.
The findings suggest that a brief IY intervention is a feasible and safe adjunctive treatment for young people with IBS, leading to benefits in a number of IBS-specific and general functioning domains for YA. The age-specific results suggest that yoga interventions may be most fruitful when developmentally tailored.