We know yoga is a great way to strengthen both mind and body. But did you know it can also be beneficial if you have issues with back pain? If you want to rely a bit less on pain medication, or just want to try some new ways to ease your back pain, here’s how doing yoga can help.
Back Pain Relief From Yoga Proven by Research
Yoga’s benefits for back pain have research on their side. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found, after three months of doing yoga classes designed for back pain, the number of patients still taking pain medication to help manage their pain dropped by around 20 percent. This is a pretty significant number.
While doctors often recommend physical therapy because it’s widely offered and often covered under insurance, yoga could be just as effective. It’s unlikely a single treatment can fully treat back pain, but yoga could be a very helpful additive to a regimen. In the words of study author Rob Saper, director of integrative medicine at Boston Medical Center, “maybe yoga should be considered as a potential therapy that can be more widely disseminated and covered [by insurance].”
Physical Benefits of Yoga for Your Back
Having strength in the muscles in your back is crucial if you want to avoid back pain. Back muscles are support the spine and help with posture and everyday moving and walking. The stronger those muscles are, the better the chances you can get rid of back pain. Unlike a more strenuous workout, such as weightlifting, yoga gently strengthens and opens up the body without creating pain.
Poses like the locust, bow and triangle can help you strengthen those back muscles. If you’re a yoga novice, though, don’t jump into it right away. Slowly do these with other yoga poses focused on stretching, and ease your body into it. You can also adapt poses with yoga props such as straps and blocks to make them a bit more comfortable for you.
The triangle pose is a good way to gently strengthen back and abdominal muscles, while also stretching the back. The gentle twist involved in the motion loosens up the back. Another great benefit of this pose is that it targets the entire spine — from the base to the very top of the neck. Because triangle pose is an open, standing pose, it ensures you don’t further injure those sensitive back muscles.
Stretching is also an important part of pain management because it helps reduce all the tension in muscles that can contribute to discomfort. Many of us are pretty sedentary throughout the day, which can contribute to back pain, as well. You need to stretch and loosen those muscles instead of staying in the same position all the time. Regular stretching helps you become more aware of where you hold tension in your body, so you can consciously release it.
Poses like cat, cow, downward dog, seated forward fold and the many twisting poses involved with yoga can help keep back muscles limber. Stretching muscles besides the back, like the hamstrings, can also have benefits for the back. All of our muscles work together, so working our legs, arms and abdominals can contribute to making sure the back feels better.
Downward-facing dog is a pose known for being beneficial for backs. It lengthens the back, making it a good choice for office workers or other professions that lend themselves to a hunched posture, like drivers and teachers. Down dog alleviates tension in the back, as well as strengthening the shoulders and shoulder blade area, helping relieve pain and tension in the upper and mid-back.
Breathing correctly is a huge component of doing yoga, and can determine how effective the poses will be. Instead of holding your breath while you’re holding a pose, make sure you’re inhaling and exhaling deeply throughout the exercise. Regular breathing helps keep your muscles relaxed and encourages good blood flow circulation that makes the poses more beneficial.
Mental Benefits of Yoga
Believe it or not, your mental health also has an impact on your back pain. New evidence supports the theory that depression is a cause of back pain. Stress is also believed to cause pain. With stress or anxiety, we tend to tense up, and that tensing makes our muscles knot up and hurt.
Yoga is truly a full-body experience, and studies have shown it helps reduce stress and relaxes both mind and body. It helps put you in an all-around better mood, makes you feel more alert and energetic and reduces fatigue. We don’t realize how much our mental and physical health are connected. Yoga is an exercise that benefits both.
If your back pain is solely caused by stress and mental issues, yoga could be the only thing you have to do to get rid of your pain. With the benefits it provides both mind and body, it’s a strong contender. Chronic back pain may take some extra help and work, but yoga is certainly a beneficial form of exercise to add to your pain-management regimen.