Back pain is a common modern age problem. So common that about 80% of people complain about having trouble with it at some or other point in their lives. Although quite normal with aging, back pain can also occur due to a number of reasons including excess load, wear and tear, prolonged sitting, bad posture, mental stress, injuries and certain medical conditions. In this article we’ll look at whether yoga can help with back pain or not, and why.
Back pain is also the 3rd most common reason for visiting a doctor. With such high prevalence, it’s only obvious to imagine that there must be all kinds of ways to treat it.
Well, of course there are dozens of options available to counter back pain. There are medications, massages, surgeries and all sorts of therapies that you can choose from to manage your back pain. Many of these treatments may work to relieve pain momentarily but they don’t normally address the cause, and pay normally comes back sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that has lasting effects and gets better as you do it more, something that you can do on your own without having to pay frequent visits to a doctor, then Yoga might just be your thing!
Yoga for Back Pain
Several studies have shown Yoga as an effective way to manage chronic back pain.
The American College of Physicians recommend Yoga as the perfect first-line treatment for chronic lower back pain. (Lower back pain is the more common ailment when we talk about back pain since upper back pain has mostly to do with neck and shoulders.)
Furthermore, a whopping 87% of aged and experienced yogis claim to have gotten relief from back pain through yoga.
The reason for such an impressive number is yoga’s holistic approach on both body and mind. By working on all the vital aspects of life, like physical, emotional, moral, mental and spiritual as one rather than treating them separately, yoga provides greater balance, harmony, and body-mind awareness than other treatment methods.
Yoga is a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy that combines a variety of practices, including physical postures and movements (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation.
CAM therapies are a form of treatment used mostly to manage musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory issues. According to a journal published in Bio Med Central (BMC), Yoga may well be the most common CAM therapy for back pain to date.
Back pain is also the 3rd most common reason for visiting a doctor.
How does Yoga work for back pain?
Although the exact mechanism is yet unclear, there are many plausible theories revolving around in the medical community to understand as to how yoga might improve back related issues such as backache.
The most popular theory suggest four possible ways in which Yoga might reduce back pain, i.e.,
1. Physical functioning
Yoga reduces physical impairment and offers a wide range of benefits including:
- Strength and flexibility
- Posture, balance and body-alignment
- Relaxation and vitality
- Improvement in internal processes such as metabolic, respiratory, and cardiac, among others
- Weight reduction
- Injury prevention
(Courtesy: American Osteopathic Association)
(Note: You may feel slight discomfort and pain when you do yoga for the first time. But do not be overwhelmed by it as the feeling should calm down in a few minutes. Start gently and try not to overdo it.)
Yoga is an effective way to manage chronic back pain.
2. Cognitive Appraisal
Yoga improves your cognitive ability by decreasing fear avoidance, or the fight-or-flight response. It boosts your self-efficacy and increases your body-awareness at the cellular level.
In addition to awareness, yoga also improves your body responsiveness by maintaining biological cycles and rhythm, and enhancing the bodily reactions.
3. Affect and Stress
Stress management is yet another major benefit of doing yoga regularly that might also help you with back pain.
Stress, anxiety and depression can cause many physiological disorders such as sleeplessness, headaches, fatigue, and chronic pain, especially back pain and neck pain.
- Regular yoga can help you achieve better mental clarity and calmness.
- It relaxes your mind, thus improves focus and concentration.
- Yoga relieves chronic stress and prevents substance abuse or drug addiction (even prescribed “legal” ones).
4. Biomarkers of Neuroendocrine Function
Improvement in neuroendocrine function is also a possible reason for the effect of yoga on back pain.
Research suggests that yoga improves the secretion of several biomarkers such as serotonin, cortisol, DHEA and BDNF. Optimized levels of these compounds might be responsible for many of the benefits yoga offers for back pain.
Yoga is one of the most effective self-treatment available to not only address back pain but also to prevent it in the first place. Yoga asanas improve the strength and elasticity of your muscles thus conditions your entire core, improving spine support for better balance and movement. Breathing helps in linking the postures and movements together, and improves your respiration as well as reducing your stress levels. Meditation provides mental as well as physical relaxation.
So, based on the studies, yoga can certainly help you with many aspects of back pain and improve the over-all quality of your life.
Check out this article with 5 yoga poses for back pain to get you started.
A freelance writer, a poet and an avid reader. He’s a passionate wordsmith who believes in writing content which is simple, beautiful and informative. He’s a practised communicator coached by British Academy.
Apart from being a playful scribbler, he’s a hardcore music fan and loves exploring space and science. He is also a spiritual soul and fitness enthusiast. Yoga, meditation and workout are some of his favourite health activities.