Written by Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.
If you’ve ever experienced any type of back pain, then you know just how debilitating this can be. Regardless of your age, back pain can occur after a day of yard work, playing with the kids, or it can strike seemingly out of nowhere.
Experts will tell you that approximately 80 percent of the world’s population will experience back pain at one time or another in their lifetime.
With that statistic staring you in the face, it makes perfect sense to look after your spine and back health to avoid becoming an active member in the “back pain” group.
Whether you have back pain now, or if you’ve had pain in the recent past, or if you want to avoid becoming a statistic, this article is designed to show you how to improve your back and spine health through yoga.
IT’S ALL ABOUT POSTURE
Remember all those times your mother reminded you to sit up straight and not to slouch? Mom certainly knew what she was talking about!
With most of us now working at desk jobs, spending long hours sitting in front of a computer, sitting while we are commuting, and sitting (or more accurately, slouching) once we are home, we are doing more sitting now than ever before.
All this sitting is not good for the spine, especially when we don’t sit (or even stand) using good posture. Slouching leads to neck pain, lower back pain, sometimes upper back pain, headaches, migraines, and more.
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that there are pressure points all along the spinal column, which affect the flow of energy and can cause problems with the internal organs. By achieving a more balanced body, through chiropractic, yoga, meditation, acupressure, and acupuncture, the body can naturally heal itself.
HOW YOGA CAN HELP
If you already practice yoga regularly, then you’ve most likely noticed the changes in your body and how much stronger you feel.
Certain yoga poses not only relieve stress and pressure on the spine, but they also strengthen the muscles that support the spine, as well as core muscles that also provide support.
For people with back pain, one of the first things that doctors and chiropractors will suggest is to engage in an exercise and stretching program, such as yoga.
Skeptics will most likely agree that stretching can help to relieve some pain issues, but they doubt that yoga can actually heal such a delicate area as the back.
It’s hard to deny facts, however. One study looked at both physical therapy and yoga for patients with back pain. Over one year, this study found that while both groups used less pain medication after only 3 months, the yoga group was found to have moderate pain reduction in the short term, as well as increasing the subject’s short and long term back function.
One area that makes yoga so attractive is that there is no need to buy special equipment. Most people can practice right at home, although many prefer to join yoga classes, where they can receive direct instruction from a teacher to ensure they are doing the poses correctly.
To both relax and strengthen the muscles in the back and muscles that support the back, the following poses are super beneficial.
BEST YOGA POSES FOR SPINE HEALTH
The cat/cow pose is an easy to perform pose that allows for a nice extension and flexing of the spine. This is an excellent pose for relieving tension and tightness in the lower back.
This pose works the following muscles:
- Serratus anterior
- Erector spinae
- Rectus abdominis
2. EXTENDED TRIANGLE
This is a classic pose that feels so darn good! This pose can stop neck pain, low back pain, even sciatica pain. Anytime pain is reduced, stress and anxiety levels are also reduced. I love this pose because it stretches the hips, groin, and spine while helping to strengthen your legs, chest, and shoulders. All of that in one little pose!
The extended triangle pose works the:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Internal obliques
3. SPHINX POSE
Nothing feels as good to me as the sphinx pose. I love the way this stretches the chest, abdomen, and shoulders. When my shoulders get a good stretch, I feel more relaxed.
This pose works:
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Erector spinae
- Pectoralis major
4. DOWNWARD DOG
This might be one of the best-known yoga poses ever. This forward bending pose can be both rejuvenating and relaxing. I often recommend this pose for sciatica patients and those with low back pain.
This pose strengthens the following muscles:
5. CHILD’S POSE
The child’s pose feels so relaxing, it’s almost like you aren’t doing exercise. This pose will relieve stress and fatigue while stretching the hips, thighs, ankles, and spine. This must be my all-time favorite pose when I want to relax.
This pose works:
- The spinal extensors
- Rotator cuff muscles
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO STOP BACK PAIN?
While yoga is one of the best things to help stop and prevent back pain, it can’t do everything. In some instances, health issues such as spinal degeneration, spinal stenosis, arthritis, and other problems can cause chronic back pain.
Yoga can help, but sometimes, your body will benefit from something more. What else can you do to get rid of back pain?
- Massage Therapy- Massage certainly feels good, but did you know that it also has a great many health benefits? Yes, now you can say that you are going to a health appointment and head off to your chiropractor or massage therapist!
- Get Plenty of Sleep- Chronic back pain is a Catch-22 situation. The pain keeps you awake, and you feel more pain because you haven’t slept well. Speak with your chiropractor or doctor is pain at night is preventing you from getting your Z’s.
- Heat or Ice Therapy- Some people benefit from ice therapy, others from heat therapy. Ice stops inflammation and pain while heat loosens muscles and relieves pain. Try both and then continue to use the one that works best for you.
- Chiropractic Care- Comprehensive chiropractic care does so much more than just “crack” your back. Adjustments do play an important part in keeping the vertebrae of the spine in proper alignment, but your chiropractor can also employ a wide number of other practices to help your body heal and keep your spine strong including ultrasound, chiropractic massage, low light laser therapy, and automated traction devices.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If you get regular exercise, practice yoga, and try to eat right but you still experience back pain, you should check with your chiropractor to determine the root cause.
Some people feel that chiropractors are more hype than anything else, but a multitude of studies will show you that this isn’t true.
One recent 2018 study used 750 subjects with back pain. Half of the group received the usual standardized care (physical therapy, rest, pain medication). The other half received 12 chiropractic treatments. The chiropractic group has less pain, improved function, needed less pain medication, and reported higher satisfaction with their treatment than the standard group.
This isn’t a single study, there are dozens of them if you look through Google Scholar.
See your doctor or chiropractor if your back pain continues to be a problem. Chances are that they will recommend several treatments and then say what I do to nearly all of my patients: start a yoga program when your body has healed.
Author ~ Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice received top-rating and good reviews from thousands of patients in Anchorage from different health problems using services including chiropractic care, physical rehab therapy, and massage therapy designed to help patients receive long-lasting relief.
He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.