Approximately 80 percent of Americans suffer from back pain; in many cases the pain lasts for only a few days and can be treated with rest and over-the-counter medications, but for some unfortunate people back pain is a chronic and debilitating medical condition. Back pain that’s been diagnosed as “non-organic” or “mechanical” can be helped with non-medical back pain treatment like yoga; however, pain caused by infection, fracture, inflammatory arthritis or cancer may require more invasive treatments for relief. A doctor’s approval should be sought before starting a yoga practice or attempting any other non-medical treatment. Delaying treatment of a medically serious back problem could worsen the condition.
A study published in the 2011 Annals of Internal Medicine found that sufferers of non-organic back pain reported significant pain relief and improved mobility after attending yoga classes – even up to one year later. These findings bring hope for people with chronic pain who have yet to find conventional treatments that offer hope of living with less pain. Yoga is sometimes perceived as an exercise that forces practitioners to contort their bodies in a number of pretzel-like and painful positions. While some advanced poses to require excellent flexibility and balance, it’s the gentlest and easiest poses that hold therapeutic promise.
Yoga Poses to Relieve Back Pain
Legs up the Wall
Tight hamstrings can be the cause of severe back pain. “Legs Up the wall” is a pose that provides a long, gentle stretch to the hamstrings while the practitioner lies in a comfortable position. To perform this pose, lay on your back with your bottom as close to a wall as possible. Place a folded towel under your shoulders and a rolled up towel under your neck for support. Slide your feet up the wall until they’re in a straight vertical line. Rest for a minute or two and scoot your bum a bit closer to the wall. Continue stretching while inching forward toward the wall every couple of minutes. Perform the stretch for 5 to 10 minutes.
The Child’s Pose gives the spine a gentle stretch and helps to align it naturally. If you have tight hamstrings, practice Legs up the Wall before attempting Child’s Pose. Tight hamstrings can limit your ability to rest comfortably in Child’s Pose. Sit on a yoga mat with both legs folded under your body. Your bottom should rest comfortably on your ankles. Lean forward so that your head rests on the floor. Use a folded towel for comfort. If you can’t lean over that far, rest your head on a foam yoga block or thick pillow. Position your arms at your sides with palms up. Relax into the posture and concentrate on taking slow, full breaths. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 minutes.
About Therapeutic Yoga
Therapeutic or restorative yoga should never be painful. Use folded blankets, pillows or yoga blocks to support shoulders, elbows, knees or any part of the body that feels strain during the pose. It’s important to hold the pose for as long as you can comfortably tolerate – but never hold a pose that causes pain to your back. To enjoy the benefits of therapeutic yoga you need to let your body relax fully into the posture, and that typically takes at least 5 minutes.
For more resources on therapeutic back pain treatment check out a number of online yoga videos available for home workouts.
Erica Hill is writing on behalf of Gaiam TV, a healthy lifestyle media company that produces a wide range of workout videos.