Yoga and Back Pain
A strong back knows no pain
Back pain is probably the biggest cause for absence from work in UK and is the fifth most common reason for physician visits. Some studies suggest that for as many as 85% of cases, no physiological cause can be shown.
Back pain does not usually require immediate medical intervention, as majority of episodes of back pain are self-limiting and non-progressive. Most back pain syndromes are due to inflammation, especially in the acute phase, which typically lasts for two weeks to three months.
In most cases the exact cause of the pain is not clear. This is called non-specific lower back pain. The usual advice is to keep active, and do normal activities. Painkillers can help until the pain eases. In most cases, the pain clears within a week or so but may recur from time to time. Chronic (persistent) pain develops in some cases, and further treatment may then be needed.
Prevention is better than Cure.
Preventive measures include –
1) Awareness and correction of postures while standing, sitting and lying down,
2) Regular exercises and
3) Stress management through yoga
Why is Back pain becoming more and more common in modern man?
Modern life style is responsible for this due to following reason-
1. Muscles are weaker than our ancestors.
Today’s life style can be managed most efficiently without using our muscles, drastically reduced the need for physical activity especially strong thick postural muscles of the spine. Once the physical activity level reduces the muscles start becoming weaker and weaker.
The University of Florida has carried out pioneer research into the muscular causes of back pain. It was the first to test and verify the hypothesis that weak back muscles could be a cause of chronic lower back pain.
2. Overworking wrong muscles.
Bad postures during standing or sitting (sloppy chairs) or sleeping (cushiony beds) are responsible along the supporting muscles which are already weak. This alters the line of weight transmission. These muscles remain in a state of partial contraction which they are not trained for and gets tired and when pushed beyond its capacity triggers off pain sensors resulting in back pain.
3. Repeated injuries due to lack of exercise
We are now prone to multiple sprains and strains, muscle pulls and small injuries. These soft tissue injures are most common in the neck and the lumbar spine. Whenever there is an injury in the spine or neck, the nature’s way is to protect by spasm of the long para spinal muscles. Normally pain subsides in 1-4 weeks, but major concern is for the chronic back pain.
It is said about 80% of symptoms of chronic back pain are the result of weak lower back muscles
4. Psychological stress.
How does yoga understand the relation between life style and back?
According to yoga the causes of back pain are functional or organic. The organic causes include Trauma, Tumor, infection which contributes to a small percentage of the cases of chronic back pain. Functional causes begin at the mind level. Majority of the chronic low back pain are due to functional causes related to modern life style
What is the role of stress in chronic low back pain?
Sikorski et al., in 1996 published their studies on the role of psyche in 131 subjects with chronic low back pain in which they concluded that the demonstrable bone or soft tissue structural problems accounted for only 38% of the pain and the rest of it was all due to the psychological stress, as assessed by a Psychiatrist.
How stress turns into back pain?
Stress is a speeded up state of the mind. The erratic life style of excesses either in form of excess work or excitement or even depressed state leads to this speedy state of mind. Amongst all the emotions, it is the negative emotions such as anxiety, suppressed anger and frustration that drain out the maximum amount of pranic energy.
The problem of long standing stresses manifests initially only as psychological problems such as irritability, excessive smoking or alcohol, sleep disturbances, difficulty in making decisions etc. Over the years this shows up as any one of the digestive problems such as poor appetite, dyspepsia, constipation, flatulence, gastritis etc., which are common precursors of most stress induced ailments. As this goes on for a few more years, unexplained musculo-skeletal pains either as muscle spasms, soft tissue pains, cramps, or inflammations. A combination of some of these imbalances settles down in one particular part of the body showing up as recurrent episodes of acute or chronic musculoskeletal pains with no organically detectable cause.
Is there a role of Yoga during acute episodes?
During this acute phase of bed rest Yoga gives a trick to give very deep rest to the mind body complex and working with self to develop deep internal awareness and conscious relaxation and rest. Lying down in bed has given you an opportunity and time to go within, and analyse your own life, understand the problems of your lifestyle, plan out a future time table for better management of the entire body mind complex instead of worrying about future which further leads to increase of pain.
Physically you give rest to acute injuries of disc and soft tissues or the bone leading to heal faster. Also you provide relaxation to muscle spasm which has occurred as a result of protection.
Strength training keeps the spine flexible and maintains spinal disc elasticity
The spine consists of 7 cervical, 12 thoracic and 5 lumbar vertebrae linked by vertebral joints. In between the vertebra there are inter vertebral discs made up of cartilage.
Are there any researches to prove yoga helps?
Research by p. thekur-Seven days of a residential intensive yoga-based lifestyle program reduced pain-related disability and improved spinal flexibility in patients with Chronic lower back pain better than a physical exercise regimen.
US researchers studying people with chronic lower back problems found that those who did Iyengar Yoga were better at overcoming pain and depression than those who followed conventional treatments for lower back pain.
By Dr Kimberly Williams, at West Virginia University in Morgantown conducted study saying People with chronic low-back problems who do yoga also do better at overcoming pain and depression than people treated conventionally for back pain, a West Virginia University study funded by the National Institutes of Health shows.
What Yoga practices should be done?
Through Yoga techniques involving slow body movements and deep relaxation are useful in maintaining the strength and flexibility of the spine. In persons who have had a minor acute episode of back pain, regular practice of a basic set of yoga practices of 45 to 50 minutes including Sun salutation, loosening practices, 8 – 10 asanas followed by deep relaxation, pranayama and meditation.
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