Lifescript.com—August 23, 2012
Is your aching back making even the simplest movement difficult and painful? Yoga – offering pain relief through stretching, strengthening and de-stressing – is a great low back pain treatment. Here are 6 gentle ways to use yoga for back pain. The key? Go slowly and breathe deeply...
Chronic back pain may be partly in your head.
"Back pain is a classic mind-body problem,” says Vijay Vad, M.D., sports medicine specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, author of Back Rx (Gotham), and host of the PBS special "Stop Back Pain."
That's why it’s so hard to get lower back pain relief through conventional medicine – typically a combination of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and/or narcotics.
It's also what makes yoga, which uses deep breathing to reduce stress, such a powerful back-healing tool. "For every 10 people I treat for chronic back pain, only one or two of them have a purely physical issue, such as a damaged disk, pinched nerve or spasming muscle," Dr. Vad says.
Besides those two, he adds, a couple more have a purely psychological issue, such as stress, triggering their chronic low back pain, and the rest have a combination of the two.
To use yoga to treat your back pain, Dr. Vad recommends doing the following six exercises three times a week for 15-20 minutes, breathing deeply – so that the belly expands with each inhale – as you do them. "Exercise and deep breathing increase blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients to discs, which helps them heal," Dr. Vad says.
Consult your physician before starting and expect soreness in the first 2-3 weeks. That's because the muscles in your back have likely been frozen in a perpetual spasm, and these exercises call on those muscles to release and start working again.
Don't walk in to any yoga class during a flare-up and expect to keep up with a vigorous sequence of poses. But by week 8, you should see noticeable lower back pain relief, Dr. Vad says.
"If you stick to it, the long-term benefits far outweigh the early discomfort," he says.
The first week, start by doing any three of the following poses in each of your sessions, making sure to incorporate the two reclined poses included here.
The second week, do all six poses in each session. Try to hold each stretch for 5-7 breaths, breathing slowly and fully through the nose.
Read the full story and learn the six yoga poses at lifescript.com.