Yoga and Back Pain:
Yoga and back pain: Just about everybody experiences back pain at one time or another. It’s one of the most frequent reasons for visiting a primary care doctor’s office.
The most common diagnosis for low back pain is lumbar strain and spasm. Damage to back muscles and ligaments most frequently occurs by lifting and twisting at the same time, but the slightest sudden movement can result in crippling back pain.
Sometimes a disc between the back bones ‘slips’ and causes sciatica, a radiating pain into the leg. Arthritis can develop in the facet joints, tiny joints linking one back bone to the next. Postural problems, injuries, and conditions like scoliosis can all contribute to poor alignment of the back bones with resulting pain.
Even though back pain is so common, modern medicine does a pretty poor job of healing it. Too many people end up having surgeries that don’t help and worsening chronic pain that won’t resolve even with strong narcotic pain medication. With back pain, self-healing and prevention of future episodes are keys to a happy back.
The trick is to keep back muscles strengthened, stretched and relaxed through a program of Yoga therapy that also nourishes the discs between the vertebrae or back bones and strengthens abdominal and other core muscles.
Yoga and Back Pain
Yoga and back pain are a good fit. Research studies show that Yoga therapy reduces pain, improves the ability to function in daily tasks, and improves the ability to control pain levels which decrease feelings of helplessness and depression. In one study 88 percent of a Yoga therapy group either reduced the amount of medication they were taking or eliminated it completely compared to only 35 percent of controls.(1,2)
What to Do If You Have Back Pain
- You may need to see a physician to rule out infection, neurological problems, fractures, and cancer. While they are rare causes of back pain, they shouldn’t be missed. Please realize though that a good workup by a primary care physician does NOT mean that Xrays, MRIs and CTs are necessary and their inappropriate use can even be harmful. A good history and physical done by an appropriately trained physician are usually all that is needed.
- Science suggests that the fastest recoveries are made by those who begin physical therapy the day of an injury or the day after. It follows that the same is true for Yoga therapy. Bed rest is no longer recommended. Be gentle at first, move slowly, and don’t push for extreme postures.
Most cases of sudden acute back pain will resolve on their own in six to eight weeks no matter what intervention is chosen – even if you simply do nothing except go about daily activities as much as possible. Most ‘slipped’ discs also self-heal on their own through the power of nature without any surgery. Help the body to heal through Yoga rather than fight it with fear, anxiety and increased muscle tension.
Yoga poses for back pain:
- Kalyanasana or Happy Posture
- Parvatasana “The Mountain pose”
- Bhujangasana “The Cobra Pose”
- Dhanurasana “The Bow Pose”
- Shashankasana “The Hare Pose”
- Supta Vajrasan “Sleeping Thunderbolt Pose”
- Ustrasana Ushtrasana, or “Camel Pose”
- Dwikonasana is known as ‘the double angle pose’.
- Gomukhasana or “Cow Face Pose”
- Chakrasana “A Wheel Pose”
- Trikonasana or “Triangle Pose”
- Meru Vakrasana (Dynamic Spinal Twist)
- Williams K et al. Therapeutic applications of Iyengar yoga for healing chronic low back pain. International Journal of Yoga Therapy. 2003; 13:55-67.
- Sherman KJ et al. Comparing Yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2005 Dec 20; 143:849-56.