It is estimated that approximately 75% of people have suffered from back pain at some point in their lives. There are many factors that contribute to back pain. Wear and tear on our joints over time is caused by lifting, bending, twisting and carrying. Back pain can be posture related from repetitive actions such as driving, sitting at a desk or computer. If we suffer physical injury, emotional stress or trauma, back pain can also result.
A high percentage of back pain is caused by compression of the spine. This leads to conditions such as arthritis, bulging or slipped disks and sciatica. Yoga poses or asanas teach us how to lengthen the spine and how to improve our posture. Yoga poses take the spine through all its movements thereby keeping it healthy. Yoga will help to bring the body into alignment, build strength and release tension. Under the supervision of a qualified yoga teacher or yoga therapist, specific postures can be used to help back pain and promote healing and recovery. According to a study in the journal Spine (Sep 01, 2009), yoga therapy can reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic low back pain.
Often for back pain, it is recommended to strenthen the core because the back is weak. However engaging in a practice to strengthen abdominals only can be counter-productive. If the abdominal muscles become tight and short, as in a six pack, they can pull on the spine even more and impact breathing properly. In yoga, we build core strength while keeping the muscles of the body, including the abdominals and the back muscles long and lean. This results in strong, flexible muscles, free of tension, that have the ability to stretch as well as support the skeletal frame of the body.
Yoga treats the whole person, not just the injury; or in the case of back pain, doesn’t just focus on the back. A yoga practice will comprise pranayama (breathing practices), meditation and relaxation techniques. This is important because back pain can often have an emotional component, and in turn, living with back pain can affect our emotions, often resulting in stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue. This is where yoga can have an advantage over primarily physical treatments.