Yoga Stretches Relieve Back Pain Naturally

By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.

Back pain isn't just a pain problem, it influences our overall mood, energy and well-being as well. If you have ever had a bad case of back pain, you know just how debilitating it can be. Even small, everyday activities become painful, and everything you do during the day is impacted.

Yoga therapy targeting back pain is showing promise as a new, alternative treatment for back pain. Back problems often originate in the soft tissues, and as a consequence, the most effective back pain treatments are typically non-surgical and non-prescriptive, targeting the soft tissues instead. Yoga offers therapy for back pain, because it helps relieve chronic tension and tightness in the soft tissues, addressing back pain at its root.

A study published in 2005 in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that people practicing yoga for back pain experienced greater pain relief than people who received a combination of exercise and knowledge of proper back care. Yoga exercises for back pain have also been recommended by the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society as a way to treat chronic back pain.

Yoga offers natural relief from back pain in four major ways:

1. Yoga tones and strengthens the core muscles. Yoga exercises strengthen the body's core posture support muscles in a holistic and complete way. Stronger core muscles provide better support for the spine, improving the strength and stability of the back. In addition to increasing core stability, yoga helps improve posture, again decreasing unbalanced or excessive loads on the spine to provide back-pain relief.

2. Yoga enhances flexibility. Back problems often arise when chronically tight muscles and soft tissue pull on the spine at unnatural angles. Yoga stretches increase the suppleness and flexibility of the soft tissues, and this in turn releases the strain caused by chronically tight muscles pulling the spine out of its natural alignment. By stretching out and releasing tension naturally, yoga relieves the pressure on the spine, in turn reducing back pain.

3. Yoga improves circulation. By enhancing circulation, yoga improves oxygenation to body tissues. This increases the supply of nutrients to and removal of toxins from the soft tissues around the spine. Yoga exercises are particularly effective for this, because many yoga poses alternate between compression and release of pressure, which combined with deep breathing, floods the body with oxygen-rich blood. The new influx of blood removes toxins and delivers vital nutrients to the soft tissues. For people who work at a desk all day, this is particularly useful, as sitting at a desk for long hours will restrict blood flow and compress the spine. Yoga stretches the back, lengthens and decompresses the spine, and increases the circulation to the vertebrae and vertebral discs.

4. Yoga relieves stress. Stress leads to chronic tightness in the soft tissues, which is often a factor in back pain. Yoga helps relieve back pain by creating greater relaxation and inner calmness. The stresses of modern life can trap our body in a constant "fight or flight" mode, in which muscles and soft tissues tighten up. Chronic tightness in the soft tissues of the neck and back can cause back pain, neck tension, and even tension headaches. By inducing greater relaxation in body and mind, yoga shifts the body from a "fight or flight" mode into the rejuvenating "rest and digest" state, in which the body can begin to heal itself.

Of course, like any holistic mind-body approach to health, yoga offers many therapeutic effects, and these are just a few. When the spine is healthy, vital energy flows unimpeded, and we enjoy optimum well-being. For this reason, a person practicing yoga for back pain will also benefit from yoga's effects on organ health, mood, emotional balance and general energy and well-being. - 32188

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