Is Therapeutic Yoga the Solution to Your Low Back Pain

Therapeutic Yoga

Therapeutic Yoga

Yoga has risen in popularity over the past few decades in the US, to become a staple in the fitness industry. More recently, the trend has been incorporating yoga into the physical therapy model as it can benefit patient mobility and strength. To get even more specific, there has been more interest in using yoga as a tool to relieve chronic low back pain as an alternative to more traditional pathways, such as pain relieving medications. If you or someone you know are experiencing low back pain, yoga just may be the complementary therapy you are looking for.

Traditional yoga, based on hatha yoga practices of ancient India, involves poses, breathing, and meditation. With consistent practice, the poses can increase strength in the musculoskeletal system, breathing exercises can improve your mind-muscle connection to your core, and meditation can improve relaxation and bring down pain levels. Though more traditional yoga may be great for those who are not experiencing chronic low back pain, those who do suffer with it may be unable to perform these poses due to limitations in their mobility and strength, or may need to work their way up to these more traditional yoga styles.

Two such options for beginners who are wondering if yoga is a good option for them and their low back symptoms are: chair yoga, a regressed form of yoga performed either seated in a chair or using the chair as a prop to assist with poses; and Iyengar Yoga, which is based off of hatha yoga, though it uses props such as blocks and straps to assist with the poses to get the most out of the poses while putting less stress on the musculoskeletal system. Both of these are great options for anyone who may not be ready to take the plunge into a full yoga practice, and can be a gateway into improving core strength, which is crucial for improving low back pain, and becoming more in tune with your body in general. Iyengar Yoga classes/instructors may be tougher to find, as it is more specific, but chair yoga classes may be more accessible for the casual or beginning yogi.

Whether you decide to begin one on one sessions with an instructor, join a weekly class, or try dvd’s/youtube videos, the key to seeing improvements in any new exercise program is consistency. There have been several studies which conclude that yoga can improve participant’s reported pain levels and decrease their perceived disabilities due to their chronic low back pain when performing carefully curated yoga classes several times a week, and those who stuck with yoga following the study continued to have decreased overall low back pain. If yoga is something you may be interested in, ask your healthcare provider or physical therapist about beginning a new exercise program, and if they have any suggestions for low back pain specific yoga classes!

Also, take a look at this video with Nick for a few techniques on yoga for back pain

Jessica Rondeau, PTA, BS
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