Yoga for back pain
If you are suffering from lower back pain, please consult your doctor.
This article is purely an overview of my experience with how yoga can be used to treat some particular forms of lower back pain.
This article should not be taken as prescriptive or even advisory for your own particular condition.
Back pain is very common and will affect over 70% of us by the time we reach 50 years of age.
The first thing to be aware of is that there are many different types of back pain, and also many different underlying causes of back pain.
Back pain can result from problems arising in muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures within the spine so firstly one must go through a period of ‘self learning’ where one gets to know one’s own particular condition. Learning how the pain episodes arise, what seems to trigger them off, what movements, postures, activities either help or exacerbate the condition.
Just because one particular method helped your friend to feel better, does not mean that the same treatment method is correct for your particular condition.
Types of Lower back pain
If your back pain has come on suddenly and is quite severe it is always best to consult your doctor.
There are some potentially life-threatening problems which can be associated with back pain especially if they are accompanied by incontinence or weakness in the legs, fever, weight loss, or a history of cancer.
However most back pain when not severe does not usually require immediate medical intervention especially if you have suffered from it previously and are familiar with how the bouts of back pain tend to develop and get better..
The vast majority of episodes of back pain are self-limiting and non-progressive. Most back pain syndromes are due to inflammation, especially in the acute phase, which typically lasts for two weeks to three months.
Back pain can often be associated with stress.
Back pain management
If your doctor has ruled out any serious medical condition, then it is usually best for you to learn techniques to manage your back pain, and also to learn how to prevent your back pain from happening again.
There are two main phases of lower back pain; Acute phases (less than 4 weeks) Chronic (greater than 12 weeks)
During acute phases there is usually a lot of inflammation. Usually one is recommended to rest the back as much as possible during this phase and to use methods to reduce the inflammation such as ice packs applied to the area.
If one wishes to practice exercise or yoga for back pain at this acute stage, the exercises should be very gentle, slow, and practiced with awareness.
Lower back pain
After the acute phase which can last for a few days or even a few weeks, when the initial rest and the methods you are using to reduce the inflammation are working, the best thing to do is to introduce some small gentle slow movements into the lower back.
Very often more problems and weaknesses are caused by completely immobilising the back. So as soon as one is able, one should begin to practice some gentle yoga for the back pain.
Yoga for back pain relief
The main aspects of the yoga postures for back pain relief is that they are quite gentle and try to bring small slow gentle movements into the back while not putting strain on the body.
Some of the postures are practiced while lying on your back thus removing gravity from putting undue strain on your back. Some involve gently bringing in one or both legs towards the chest.
Examples of some of these yoga postures for back relief can be seen at
Gentle beginner postures
Yoga exercises for back pain
Some yoga postures to help relive back pain involve gentle movements while on all fours such as the cat, rotation of the hips, the moving cat, and a few other leg stretching postures which are also quite good for sciatica.
For back pain treatment, some examples of these postures can be seen at xxx yoga postures on all fours xxx
Low back pain
Many people who have low back pain find that forward bends can often make the pain worse. If you find this is the case with your particular condition, then whenever you need to bend forward you should always try to bend your knees.
If you bend your knees, it takes the pressure off the hamstring muscles on the backs of the legs, and this allows the pelvis to tilt forwards more easily. By allowing the pelvis to tilt, this allows your upper body to move closer to the ground while minimising the bend in your spine.
As mentioned previously, this is not the case for all people or all lower back pain conditions.
There is one particular man in my class who suffers from low back pain, and he is fine practicing forward bends, even with his legs straight. His particular condition is only brought on by leaning forward and twisting while working in this forward bending position. And strangely enough, his condition is often made worse by back bends which is quite unusual.
So we must realize that with our own condition, we must learn what it is that effects our back. What conditions tend to bring on our particular condition, and what movements or treatments tends to help our own back recover.
Back pain exercises
When one begins to practice yoga or other exercises for back pain relief, one should practice for very short lengths of time of possibly 5 minutes and then to rest.
After a few days of practicing the yoga exercises for back pain, and one find that the pain is diminishing and one has no adverse affects to these particular exercises, then one may extend the practice to 10 or 15 minutes. For back pain treatment, these yoga for back pain practice periods should be practiced quite often. They should be practiced at least once per day, but if one has the time it is even better if they are practiced twice or three times each day.
The key being to practice gently, with awareness but also to practice regularly and quite often.
Neck and back pain
When one suffers from general neck and back pain very often this can be due to bad posture or a lot of driving or tightness of the neck and shoulder muscles.
Yoga neck exercises to improve neck and shoulder stiffness
Yoga exercises for driving
If you drive quite a bit, it is a good idea to practice some core strengthening and also using some techniques to sit differently in order to strengthen and protect your back.
Please see xxx Yoga exercises for driving xxx
Long term prevention of reoccurrence of back pain
As one gets to know one’s body one usually discovers the types of work or activities that tend to happen before a bout of back pain occurs, and one begins to identify the types of activity that one needs to be very careful about or even avoid.
Simple techniques can help in many cases. These tips can include
- Keep knees bend when bending forwards
- If lifting a heavy weight try not to bend forward. Instead bend the knees in order to lower down.
- Try to avoid bending twisting while bending forward especially if one is carrying any weight in the hands while reaching forward
- Be a little more careful of ones back or bending while one is cold. Often while the body is warmed up, it is more supple and less likely for injury to occur. Keep your lower back warm.
- Some back conditions may preclude you from lifting any heavy weights in the future
- If driving a lot practice the back and core strengthening postures
- Avoid too soft a mattress on the bed and use an orthopaedic or form mattress
- Build up a 5 to 15 minute daily yoga practice
- to strengthen the core muscles
- to strengthen the muscles in the back
- to lengthen the hamstrings without putting pressure on the lower back
- to improve flexibility of the muscles
- to improve one’s posture and breathing
- to learn techniques for stress reduction
- to increase one’s awareness of one’s body and one’s posture
- to practice the ways of bending which protect ones back
- maintain movement and flexibility in all areas of ones spine and body
- to improve one’s peace of mind and make it less likely to allow stress to build up
I wish you well with your practice.