Chronic pain has reached epidemic levels in the United States, with 8 out of 10 Americans reporting that they experience regular, and sometimes chronic, back pain. Unfortunately, the most common treatment for this pain involves pain medications. But is there a better way? A more natural way?
The American Chiropractic Association has some pretty alarming statistics when it comes to Americans and back pain, which is by far the most common type of pain.
- 31 million Americans experience lower back pain
- Half of all working Americans say they have back pain
- Back pain is the most common reason people miss work
- Back pain is the second most common reason people visit a doctor
- 75 – 85% of Americans will experience back pain at some point
- Americans spend at least 86 billion dollars each year treating it
Yoga has many health benefits for your body and your mind, as it’s both physical and mental. It involves a combination of controlled breathing, stretching, and meditation. And while it’s still relatively new in the U.S. (since the 60s or 70s), yoga has been around for thousands of years in Asian countries like India. But can you do yoga to actually treat your pain?
What is Causing Your Back Pain?
All pain can be debilitating, and at the end of this blog post we’ll link to some specific yoga poses for a wide variety of pain. But as back pain is by far the most common, let’s look at the why and how of back pain first.
Accidents and injuries are the most common reason people experience back pain, but even simple movements, along with other physical and psychological factors, can contribute to your pain. Some of the more common include:
- Poor posture
- Inactivity, a sedentary lifestyle
- Emotional distress
The interesting thing about this short list, is that it indicates that your back pain can be caused by poor lifestyle choices, poor eating habits, and even poor emotional health. Which means treating your back pain will likely involve making some improvements in a few areas.
Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle is a sign of our modern times, as most of us sit all day at work, then sit again in the evening in front of our TVs. And then it’s bedtime. All this sitting, combined with poor posture while sitting, is the number one culprit contributing to not just your back pain, but many health ailments. So, aim to get up more. Get a standing desk. Stand while watch Monday Night Football. Or even better, do yoga while watching TV.
The emotional aspect of back pain deserves special attention. We’re beginning to find evidence that poor emotional health can definitely contribute to pain. A four-year study conducted in 2004 followed 100 participants who began the study pain-free. All of them underwent psychological evaluations. And over the course of those four years, the patients who scored poorly in those evaluations were three times more likely to experience back pain by the end of the study.
Can Some Simple Yoga Poses Really Help?
The short answer is, yes. Look at that list again from above. Then look at what yoga can provide. There’s a tremendous amount of overlap. Back problems can be triggered by your poor physical health, emotional health, and mental health. And yoga can benefit you in all three areas. When you look at it in that way, it feels really obvious.
When we experience pain, especially chronic pain, this can easily lead to anxiety over our pain, which can contribute even more to our pain symptoms. Our breathing becomes shallower when we experience pain. We begin to move less because of it, or differently, which puts other areas of your body at risk. Our entire body becomes more tense. And we think differently – less optimistically, which can lead to depression.
Yoga provides the kind of mind/body connection that can ease your anxiety over pain. It stresses deep breathing from your diaphragm. The movements are big and involve your entire body and greatly help to relieve muscle tension. And then there’s the mental benefits that come from yoga.
Movement can be medicine, when it comes to pain. The problem is that our natural inclination is to move less. However, the key is finding the right kind of movements. It should also be noted that yoga isn’t just for pain relief. Fixing is always more difficult than maintaining. So, consider yoga a great preventative solution for staying pain-free.
Where yoga really excels in terms of physical benefits is improving flexibility and core strength. Many back problems, especially lower-back conditions, originate in our core. If your core muscles are weak, you’ll be more susceptible to back problems.
In another study, patients suffering from lower back pain were divided into groups. The group of patients who took just one yoga class per week showed more improvement than the groups receiving medication or physical therapy.
If you’re suffering with lower back pain, in particular, any yoga pose that helps elongate and lengthen the spine should provide relief. Even something as simple as bending over and touching your toes. Think again about the modern, sedentary lifestyle most of us have, and how all that sitting compresses the spine. It only makes sense that doing exercises that lengthen it will help counteract that inactivity.
There’s also a trial and error aspect to using movement as pain relief, as we’re all unique. The trick is finding what works for you. Furthermore, not all yoga poses will help your condition, and some may make your pain worse. If your problem is lower back pain, a bridge pose may not be the best idea.
There’s something special about deep breathing exercises that contributes to better health in all areas – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If you’re experiencing pain that won’t go away no matter what you try, it may be time to seek professional help. The dedicated health professionals at 360 Pain Treatment have a number of treatment options at their disposal, all of which are safe and effective. Don’t let pain slow you down. Request an appointment today.
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