Many of us have experienced back pain over the years; in fact, back pain is one of the biggest reasons people visit their doctor.  Over 80% of New Zealanders will experience some form of back pain in their lifetime. If you’re one of them, then you’ll know what a struggle it can be.

Back pain can impact on your work and your general ability to keep moving and enjoy life.  There are many treatment options out there and if you’ve had back pain, you’ve probably tried them all.  There could, however, be a different option that could help and according to research from Boston Medical Centre “a yoga class designed specifically for back pain can be as safe and effective as physical therapy in easing pain”.  This doesn’t mean you should go to just any yoga class, you need to find a class and a teacher that understands your pain and offers gentle ways to restore health to the spine.

Research on Yoga and Back Pain

According to the some of the findings from the Annals of Internal Medicine on back pain, the researchers “recommended that people with back pain should avoid pain medicines if possible, and instead opt for alternatives such as tai chi, yoga and massage”.  One caveat with the research was that the study was aimed at people with run-of-the-mill back pain, rather than pain due to an injury or other diagnosed problem.  The study was conducted over 3 months and 70% of participants were taking some form of pain relief.  The groups were split into yoga, physical therapy groups and education.  The results were interesting in that the yoga and physical therapy groups had a 20% reduction in the people taking pain medication.  Conversely, the third group, that was exposed to back pain education, did not show any reduction in pain medication.  An interesting finding is that physical therapy and yoga produced similar results.

We must keep in mind what kind of issue we have and understand that a holistic approach with your medical practitioners, that adds yoga to the mix, is probably the best way to find relief.  Yoga, as part of a treatment plan, can lead to positive outcomes; yoga, however,  isn’t a one-stop pill that can miraculously cure your body.  It takes time to feel results, but with a consistent practice, you can heal the body.

Yoga Postures for Back Pain

So what kind of yoga practice can you add to your treatment plan to find relief from back pain?  Well when you are working with pain or recovering from an injury, you need start slow and find a yoga teacher or class that can help you do postures to release the body.  There are many different yoga postures to try but there a few listed below that a good place start:

  1. Cat/Cow: This involves being on your hands and knees and dropping your belly to the floor for the Cow pose and then pressing into the hands and rounding the upper back for cat pose.  You can easily move between the two poses any number of times to warm up the spine and gain mobility.
  2. Spinal twist: You can do this several different ways but one of the easiest is to sit with your legs in front of you.  Take your right leg and cross it over the left and then take the left elbow to the right knee and twist to the right.  Hold for a few breaths, you don’t need to push yourself here, just allow the spine to twist.  Repeat to the other side
  3. Triangle pose: This pose is a little more in depth but is a great way to stretch the body in all directions.  From standing, step the right leg back and lengthen the left leg.  Raise your arms so they point the same direction as the legs.  From there you bend your torso to the left leg and turn your body to the right.  Hold for a few breaths and alter the pose as required so you aren’t concerned about how flexible you are but feel expansion in all directions.

Ultimately, these poses are just a beginning point, there are many different yoga styles and postures to help reduce your back pain.

Yoga can be an effective tool to help the you get back to what you want to do in life, and as part of your treatment plan, yoga can help you realize tangible benefits with little risk.

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