Objectives: 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.
Methods: 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).
Results: 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.
Conclusions: 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.