Yoga and the Problem Back:
- Any movements to avoid
- The most productive level of challenge
- Safety modifications
- Effects of interaction between exercise and your medications
What a Good Yoga Teacher Can Do:
Unless you are a professional rehabilitation specialist, it is imperative to find a qualified yoga teacher. Do not try to teach yourself!
Balance Is Key:
Types of Yoga Suitable for Back Pain Sufferers:
Alignment and Body Awareness - The Hallmarks of Hatha Yoga:
Don't Try - Modify! An Introduction to Props:
Talk to the Prospective Yoga Teacher:
Some yoga teachers are big on manual adjustments, including stretching. In most cases, adjustments are helpful, but you may need to forgo them to avoid aggravating your pain. Discuss this with the yoga teacher before the class starts, to avoid an unwanted surprise.
Special Focus Yoga Classes:
Conditions Helped by Yoga:
Examples of conditions particularly suitable for yoga include (but are not limited to):
Yoga for Back Pain Research Studies
In the fall of 2011, two studies helped our understanding of the way yoga might be used for back pain relief. In Britain, a three-year study involving 313 participants and multiple instructors delivered a standardized program for chronic back pain sufferers. The yoga participants scored much better than the control group in all areas (pain, pain self-efficacy) except general health.
The other study, from the United States, compared yoga to an equivalent amount of stretching. This was a "comparative effectiveness study," and it found that for people who have mild to moderate back pain without sciatica, stretching did just as well as yoga. The study showed overall how valuable movement is in the healing process, said Debbie Turczan, M.S.P.T., a therapeutic yoga teacher and a clinical specialist in physical therapy, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York City.
"Yoga teaches us to respect where our bodies are, rather than comparing our current abilities to what we used to be able to do or what someone else can do," she said.
Yoga for back pain can be quite a winner, but you must respect the limits placed on you by your pain. This necessarily involves "listening" to your body, a skill you will undoubtedly cultivate as a student of this ancient system.
Is Your Back Ready for Yoga?
Take the Yoga for Back Pain Quiz to find out if you are mentally and physically ready for a yoga practice that addresses back pain.
K.J. Sherman, D.C. Cherkin, J. Erro, D.L. Miglioretti, and R.A. Deyo. Comparison of Yoga, Exercise, and Education for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine Vol 143 Issue 12 pp1-18. Dec 20 2005. http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/143/12/I-18
Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Wellman RD, Cook AJ, Hawkes RJ, Delaney K, Deyo RA. A Randomized Trial Comparing Yoga, Stretching, and a Self-care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Oct 24. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Sherman%20KJ%2C%20Cherkin%20DC%2C%20Wellman%20RD%2C%20et%20al.%20A%20randomized%20trial%20comparing%20yoga%2C
Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, Kang'ombe AR, Chuang LH, Jayakody S, Aplin JD, Semlyen A, Trewhela A, Watt I, Torgerson DJ . Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Nov 1;155(9):569-78. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22041945
Email Interview. Debbie Turczan, M.S.P.T., clinical specialist in physical therapy, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York City. November 2011.