Yoga for Lower Back Pain

(Disclaimer: make sure to always consult a doctor or expert when deciding to start new training regimen)


yoga for lower back pain


 

Tidbits On Lower Back Pain:

Lower back pain, or back pain general is an issue for many people at one point of their lives or another, and millions of people deal with pain in the lower back chronically. Don't feel alone in this matter, as it's one of the most common reasons people go to their doctor or even miss work, according to NIH. Usually when discussing types of back pain, one here's the term chronic (pain that persists 12-weeks or longer) or acute (pain of a few days to a few weeks). 

An interesting statistic is that roughly 20% of those affected by acute lower back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. This seems like a relatively high number, and certainly makes you think strongly about figuring out the cause of your acute pain and how to properly regimen it for a quicker, more effective recovery process. 


how can yoga help with lower back pain


Lower back pain issues can be that of a wide variety, from the location of the pain, type of pain (two common types; mechanical and radicular pain), as well as the range of symptoms one may have or display. Some of these symptoms include; pain that is dull or achy, burning, spasms, or pain that varies depending on activity. 


What are some of the current ways to treat back pain?


So clearly surgery can be one answer, but what we want to focus on in this article is more non-surgical interventions. 


* Disclaimer: It's always most important to speak with your doctor in the presence of back pain and ways to treat, we are simply providing very general known treatments and knowledge surrounding this issue!


According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some of the more well known non-surgical treatments from chronic back pain include; physical therapy, mindfulness and meditation, diet, lifestyle modifications, injection-based treatments, and alternative therapies. 

What we'll focus on here is that of an alternative therapy. Alternative therapies can be in the form of massages, acupuncture, acupressure, or even electrical nerve stimulations. 

Being that we focus much on yoga as being an alterative form of therapy for many ailments, we'll again focus on yoga for lower back pain in what follows. 



what does the research say about yoga and back pain


Yoga And Lower Back Pain?

When deciding to adopt yoga to help with your lower back issues, it is essential to understand why yoga can help, which poses you should be doing, and what you should avoid. Harvard Health discusses in one article published, that yoga is helpful to the muscles important for bending your spine and stabilization. On top of the physical benefits yoga can provide, we also have to look at the emotional aspect, the article explains, which is yoga's ability to help relieve stress and alleviate anxiety surrounding back pain. 

When used correctly though, yoga provides gentle stretching and alignment that can soothe even the most stubborn of backsOf all the methods of relieving pain in the lower back, yoga may be among the safest and most useful when used correctly. Certain yoga poses will help to straighten and strengthen critical areas within the back that may be constant sources of discomfort.

It is imperative to not just consult your doctor prior to any treatment regimens, but also to give special attention to your form when using yoga for lower back pain treatment. Failure to follow certain guidelines can result in additional discomfort in your lower back. It may also be more important then ever when suffering from any pain or ailments to attend a yoga class, that has a yoga instructor as an additional resource available

Let's face it, with all the good that comes from this practice, it's still a physical movement, and injuries can still occur. Again, form and tempo may be two of the critical factors here, and is why it's imperative to know what you're doing when attempting to alleviate pain via the yoga practice or any other physical exercise for that matter. 






What Does The Research Say?

There is certainly a need for continued research in regards to using yoga specifically for lower back pain and other ailments. However, there is research that indicates it's potential as compared to other interventions like physical therapy and exercise

In fact, one study published in 2017, stated that yoga is as effective as physical therapy for treating lower back pain. We'd say that's a pretty significant statement. The real key here is, "when it's done and performed properly". This particular study was based off of a randomized control trial, which included a yoga class designed specifically for lower back pain patients. The results included, a reduction in pain, improved functioning, and lowering the use of needed pain medication. 

A Randomized Noninferiority Trial was also done at the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center including participants divided into 3 groups; one group received 12 weekly yoga classes (designed for people with chronic back pain), another received 15 physical therapy visits over 12 weeks, and one was given educational information for self-care. These individuals were tracked for an additional 40 weeks to assess the interventions effectiveness on their back pain. The conclusion of the study had similar results as stated in the above study that "when tailored specifically for lower back pain" yoga can be an effective alternative to physical therapy. 

Mayo Clinic even discusses yoga as an alternative medicine for lower back pain, stating that although a broad discipline, specific postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and relaxation techniques may help as treatment. Some of these poses, again, may have to be modified to an individuals specific needs and goals. 





Things to Avoid When Using Yoga for Lower Back Pain

There are a few basic guidelines to follow to protect your back from further injury or agitation when doing yoga.

One thing to keep in mind is maintaining the natural curve of your spine when at all possible. Maintaining this spinal curvature will result in maximum relief without further injury.

It is also critical that you avoid sharp movements, and use your core to support your body as much as possible when transitioning in and out of different poses.


Yoga Poses to Relieve Lower Back Pain

Here are a few yoga poses that anyone can utilize to hopefully get some relief from their lower back issues:

 

Child Pose (Balasana)

Child pose will deliver relief to your lower back by stretching your spine and decompressing your vertebra. Child pose is also a beginner-friendly pose, often used in restorative yoga paths. Emphasis (like you can imagine) is on the lower back, as well as the hips, feet and ankles.


child pose for lower back pain


Steps:

1. To begin, kneel on your mat. Sit on your the backs of your feet or your heels, feet together and knees open slightly. 

2. Drop your torso or upper body forward, resting your torso and forehead on the floor, in between your thighs. 

3. Stretch your arms out in front of you, so that your back is straight in comfortable alignment. (alternatively your can place your hands down, palms up and back, at your sides).

4. Attempt to pull the mat toward you, drawing towards the center of your body. This should help draw the shoulder blades down and more centrally towards the spine. 

5. Breath and maintain this hold for 5-8 breaths or longer. Stay light on the points of support, without collapsing


Cat/Cow (Bitilasana Marjaryasana)

The change from extending and flexing of the spine in this pose will reduce tension and may help produce better overall posture. Another beginner-friendly pose, Cat/Cow is considered a stretch, as well as forward and back-bend sequence. Emphasis of this pose is on the lower and mid-back, core, hips, pelvic and neck. 


cat/cow yoga pose for lower back pain


cat cow yoga pose for lower back pain



Steps:

1. Start on the knees ("tabletop" position). Your hands should be under your shoulders, and knee's underneath your hips, and hip-width apart. 

2. Hands/fingers should be down on the mat facing to the top of the mat. 

3. Now inhale (coming into Cow Pose), dropping your naval toward the ground, lifting the chin and chest. Gaze up toward the sky. 

4. Now, move into Cat Pose when exhaling and drawing your belly inward, rounding your back toward the ceiling. 

5. Allow your head to fall, without straining it to your chest. On inhale move back to Cow Pose. 

6. Repeat for 5-8 cycles. 



Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward-facing dog pose can help stretch out muscles located in the upper portion of the legs, which can also contribute to backaches. This pose is scene throughout many yoga styles, and considered an inversion, forward-bend, stretch and strength-type pose. It works or focuses on several areas of the body including the lower, middle and upper back, the arms, shoulders, core, biceps, pelvic and hamstring region. 


downward facing dog yoga pose for lower back pain


Steps:

1. Start in Cat pose, aligning your knee's under your hips and hands underneath the shoulders

2. Straighten your elbows, keeping your upper back relaxed. Spread your fingers wide to distribute weight evenly.

3. While exhaling, pivot on your toes, raising your knees off the ground. Raise the ischium (hips) high, and spread your coccyx or sacral area to the best of your ability. 

4. Stretching your legs, attempt to place the heels of your feet to the mat, if not, you can keep a slight bend in your knees. 

5. Use your hands as if you're attempting to push the mat away, with your gaze being toward your hands, or your naval. Breath for 5 cycles. 


Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana, Niravalasana)

Our last pose in doing yoga for lower back pain is Sphinx pose. This pose lets you utilize your core and stretch out the muscles responsible for supporting your lower back. A pose completed in the prone position, Sphinx pose is a back-bend type asana. 


sphinx yoga pose for lower back pain


Steps:

1. First lye on your stomach. Aligning your elbows underneath your shoulders. Your hands should be out in front, toward the top of the mat.

2. Your feet should be roughly hip-width apart.

3. Keep your glutes relatively relaxed, tucking your tailbone inward. Proceed to lift your lower belly off the mat.

4. Push your chest forward, drawing your shoulders back and down. 

5. Stay in the pose for 3-5 minutes or more. 


Combine Healthy Back Habits with Yoga

Yoga is a powerful and cost-effective tool for treating lower back pain, but it should be paired with other habits to get maximum effectiveness. These include making a daily effort to maintain good posture in all activities.

Focus on having a natural lumbar curve in the spine when sitting and walking. It is also helpful to keep your feet facing straight when you walk. Toes that point outward can tighten the hips, which in turn will tighten the lower back.







Final Thoughts:

Daily attention to proper posture combined with yoga for lower back pain will lead to great results. Stretching your lower back with these poses for as little as ten minutes a day can give you relief that is hard to find anywhere else. Using yoga props (like bolsters, blankets or yoga blocks) may also help support certain positions.

If you have severe back pain, you should seek your doctor's advice before attempting yoga, but for mild pain in the lower back, yoga could be the solution you have been looking for.

Thanks again for stopping by, as always we enjoy hearing feedback, so if you have other poses that help with lower back pain, feel free to share in this blog posts comments sections.


Resources:

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet

https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lower-back-pain-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment

- https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/back-pain/7-ways-to-treat-chronic-back-pain-without-surgery

- https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-safe-way-to-do-yoga-for-back-pain

- https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j2964.full

- https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/m16-2579

- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369911

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0238544

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