Yoga Helps Lower Back Pain



John East

Historically, yoga has been divided into several categories—pre-classical, classical, post-classical, and modern. The pre-classical through post-classical periods of yoga were centered around simulation of archetypes, breathing and mental awakening and enlightenment through mindfulness. The modern period of yoga began in the late 1800s with hatha yoga gaining prominence in the 1920s and 30s and its association with Krishnamacharya and three of his pupils: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois.

Fast forward 100 years later to 2018, and many different types of yoga exist today. Vinyasa yoga is one of the most common forms of yoga practiced in the U, S,. This style of yoga links breath with movement through different postures (asanas). A well-balanced yoga practice involves movement of the spine in all directions (flexion, extension, lateral bending, and rotation).

An estimated 80 percent of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives, triggered by a number of factors, including injury, bad posture, lifting incorrectly, degenerative disease, slipped disc, scoliosis and more. Most cases of acute low back pain will improve within a few weeks or months, but some people experience chronic pain.

When we have an injury and seek medical attention, physicians have specialties that look at body parts independently, For example, we might see a different orthopedic doctor for a hand than the shoulder and elbow. That’s because traditional Western medicine diagnoses and treats a patient’s symptoms by evaluating parts of the body separately, rather than the whole person. It is known for using manufactured medications, surgeries and modern technologies to diagnose and treat. In recent years, this concept is shifting towards a more holistic approach.

Healthcare providers today are completing their training programs with a better understanding of the body’s need for movement, especially the spine. It has become even more prevalent that complementary and alternative treatment options are an important part of any therapy plan. For acute injuries involving the lower back, it is now almost ubiquitous that patients will be referred out for physical therapy or chiropractic treatment. Home exercise plans are encouraged, but the kinds of exercise plans recommended remain elusive for many healthcare practitioners.

Yoga is effective for improving low back pain because many of the postures strengthen the muscles in the low back, as well as the abdominals (primarily the transverse abdominis). The purpose of abdominal strengthening is to provide support for the bones and lumbar discs in the spinal column. Many poses stretch and strengthen the hamstrings and quadratis lumborum muscles, which help create more mobility and stability in the hips and pelvis. Yoga also helps to increase blood flow, eliminate toxins and improve nourishment to the muscles and soft tissue in the lower back.

A recent article published in the medical journal Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation talks about the importance of yoga and low back pain. This pilot study indicates that people experiencing low back pain that practiced yoga improved faster than the control group of patients that did not. The improvements included reduced pain, less disability and improved physical functioning.

Not all forms of yoga are equal when it comes to low back pain. Yin yoga is a style better suited for acute low back injuries. It is a form of hatha yoga that focuses on passive stretching where holds last from three to 10 minutes. This kind of stretching allows the deep connective tissue (fascia), that supports and surrounds the spine, to be lengthened. Adding yoga to a home exercise plan will “add life to your years”, as the Chinese proverb suggests. While the type of exercise plan recommended by a healthcare provider may vary, most will determine when it is safe or not to begin a yoga practice. Always consult with them before starting a home exercise plan.

For more information, call John East, DO, 200-hour RYT, and founder of Addison Pain & Regenerative Medicine, at 972-380-0000.

 

 

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