The Yoga Rx For Back Pain by Tim Keim, EYT-500, Yoga Therapist
Even though back pain is one of the most common ailments known to human kind, not all back pain is the same. Nor does each symptom of back pain respond to the same kind of treatment.
I began practicing yoga because of persistent back pain in 1994. When I found that yoga helped me return to pain free living, daily practice became my habit. As a Certified Yoga Therapist, I’ve seen many different manifestations of back pain among my clients. I’ve also witnessed how yoga has restored these same folks to fully functional lives.
Most minor, transient back injuries often result from lifting in a forward bending posture. Muscles, discs and nerve tissue can all be involved.
Falls are another frequent cause of back injuries, and they can be tricky because they often include the wrenching or pulling of soft connective tissue during the fall or trauma upon a hard landing. Wrenching can result in hyper extension or compression of nerve tissue, muscles, ligaments, tendons or all the above.
Still other types of back pain can be caused by conditions like stenosis, narrowing of the spinal canal, spondylolisthesis, a slipping of the vertebrae often in the lower back or spondylolysis, another kind of vertebral displacement injury also associated with injury.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, just some of the most common conditions I’ve seen as a yoga therapist.
Frequently, back pain simply comes from weakness, poor muscle tone and just sitting too much without enough exercise or targeted movement therapy.
So, why is yoga so effective at dealing with back pain? The simple answer is that yoga provides therapeutic movement to soothe nerve pain while strengthening muscles and connective tissues. Yoga postures also help realign the spinal column to relieve pressure on nerves that cause pain.
For instance, forward bending injuries are generally treated with back bending postures in order to compress tissues that have been injured by hyper extension. Gentle compression of the spine in Bridge Pose with diaphragmatic breathing delivers a deep therapeutic massage to injured tissues like the sciatic nerve and sacroiliac joints. Bridge Pose is unequaled in its ability to help heal this type of injury.
The opposite is true with back bending or hyper compressive injuries. Lengthening the soft tissues of the back with standing or seated forward bending heals the trauma of hyper compression and the nerve pain that results. Again, diaphragmatic breathing provides deep internal massage that promotes healing circulation and lymphatic movement.
Regular yoga practice can also help you avoid the sometimes unpredictable results of back surgery. Addressing persistent back pain with therapeutic yoga is one of the best ways to get to the root of the problem before it gets any worse.
Dr. David Hanscom, a back surgeon and recent guest on the People’s Pharmacy radio program, stated that a majority of back surgery is unnecessary. That’s a surprising statement coming from a surgeon. One of his recommendations was yoga.
Yoga can also help you side step involvement with addictive prescription narcotics that are wreaking havoc across our country. Early yoga therapy intervention empowers the practitioner with the self care skills that relieve pain and give them a very real sense of control over their lives.
Several of my clients have suffered from chronic back pain caused by injuries that happened years ago. Even after all these years and the failure of other treatments to quell their pain, yoga has restored normal function and helped them live either with much less pain or they have become pain free altogether.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years because it remains an effective, evidenced-based remedy for many modern ailments. Everyday, more professional athletes, extreme sports participants and everyday folks like you and I are discovering the healing power of yoga.
I invite you to our classes here at the Yoga Garden. Come see what yoga can do for you. At age 65, I am in the best condition of my life thanks to yoga. Throughout my 23 years of yoga practice I have healed myself from Crohn’s Disease, depression, and numerous painful injuries. Yoga can work similar wonders for you.