By Daniella Spano
Pain in your lower back is … well … a pain in the back! We spend a lot of time sitting — at the computer, in the car, in front of the television and while we eat — which can weaken the muscles that support the lower back, causing pain. Additionally, poor posture, improper lifting, abdominal surgery, overuse and injury can cause pain in your lumbar spine region. According to the World Health Organization, 60–70 percent of people will experience this pain at least once. Furthermore, the National Institute of Health reports that 20 percent of those that experience lower back pain will develop chronic symptoms. Lower back pain is a common trauma with few effective treatment options, but incorporating yoga into your lifestyle can help ease your pain.
A study by the National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that yoga classes are effective in reducing symptoms of chronic lower back pain. Yoga is a spiritual and physical exercise that incorporates breath control with specific postures to benefit both the body and the mind. The researchers determined that the stretching and strengthening combined with breathing activities were very beneficial. Merissa Encarnacion, doctor of physical therapy for Boca Raton Regional Hospital agreed. “Lower back pain has many causes that all lead to lower back and abdominal weakness,” she said. “Yoga focuses on core strength and stability with proper body mechanics and flexibility. Core stability is necessary for decreased back pain.” Encarnacion recommended gentle yoga while listening to your body and knowing your limitations (meaning don’t work through the pain). She warned that yoga may not be suitable for pain resulting from an injury and stressed the importance of consulting your physician before starting any exercise regime.
Because there are so many causes for lower back pain, there is no one-size-fits-all yoga pose to chase your discomfort away. Pain from inactivity requires different treatment than pain from posture problems. Overall, a well-structured yoga class will incorporate rehabilitative movements to strengthen the glutes, lower back, core, and shoulders while lengthening the hip flexors, hamstrings and chest muscles. The body is connected, so working these muscles will help to strengthen and relieve your back.
The lower back supports the weight of the torso and is ground zero for much of the body’s movement. Routine, gentle and mindful yoga practice will have you back in the saddle in no time!
Advice From an Expert
Samantha Jones, co-owner and teacher at Searchlight Yoga, advised strengthening the abdominal muscles to help relieve back pain. “There are yoga poses that address your core — holding a plank, doing leg lifts, holding a boat pose, working into balancing on your hands and drawing your knees up to your chest,” said Jones. “Emphasize using the core in every movement that you do.” When choosing a yoga class, she recommended finding a certified teacher familiar with lower back pain and said that attending one long class per week is not ideal. Rather, yoga practitioners looking for relief from lower back pain should take a few classes during the week and supplement with 10–15 minutes of practice at home each day.
Did You Know?
In fact, according to research from the Institute for Work & Health, yoga can improve back function when practiced consistently for at least six months.
*Remember to always ask your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen, especially if you are prone to pain.