Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide (Global Cause of Pain 2010).
Postures are one 8th of the components of yoga practice of spiritual, physical and mental health. The Asanas – or Postures, can be utilised to rehab injury and improve quality of life!
“Ahhhh my back!”
Non- specific low back pain is pain, tension or stiffness in the lower back region for which there is no identifiable cause of pain. Several structures in the back including the joints, discs and connective tissues can contribute to symptoms.
Low back pain is something that most people can relate to!
The way that the workforce has developed has resulted in many desk-based jobs that are just a breeding ground for back, neck and shoulder pain.
If you are untrained and are on your feet, lifting loads without using the correct muscles or have muscle imbalances due to sport or training, this can also cause back pain that is undiagnosable, and categorised as ‘Non- Specific Chronic Low Back Pain’.
It has become a serious problem, affecting daily life, work life and general quality of life!
HOW CAN YOGA BENEFIT?
It is said that Yoga can therapeutically rehabilitate lower back pain by addressing muscle imbalances that affect spinal alignment and posture, both big contributors to LBP. The wide range of postures covered in Yoga act to enhance alignment, mobility, stability, flexibility, strength in joints and muscles supporting the spine (Williams 2005).
The associated psychological impact that low back pain can induce including depression and anxiety can be massively improved with practicing Yoga to promote positive self-image, inspire confidence and improve quality of life
Using props, such as blocks, chairs, straps and cushions allow for supported postures to facilitate relaxation and provide awareness to areas of the body. The aim is to decrease tension in muscles and improve activation in muscles that are often underactive. Fixing this imbalance can lead to significant improvements in low back pain.
WHATS THE EVIDENCE?
Williams (2005) displayed significant improvements in self- reported low back pain by 26% compared to 1% for self care, and reduced the use of pain medication. They found reductions in pain intensity and functional disability amongst the Yoga intervention group.
Grotle (2018) found that a 12 week Yoga intervention was just as effective as individual Physiotherapy sessions for treating and improving symptoms of low back pain.
Tekur (2008) found that a short intensive Yoga programme caused significant improvements in flexibility and reduction of pain in comparison to the control group.
Sherman (2005) found improvements in how ‘bothered’ patients were by their back pain in the Yoga group compared to an exercise or book intervention
Nambi (2015) found that compared to Exercise Therapy (although both groups saw improvements), Yoga induced greater improvements in non-specific low back pain.
APPROACH FOR LBP?
- Aim to relieve pain and muscle tension
- Lengthen muscles attaching to the pelvis
- Standing poses to open up the hips & teach the student how to lengthen muscles to benefit the spine
- Twists can be introduced to target deeper back muscles, increase intervertebral space and help to realign the spine
- Decrease possible impingement of nerve roots
- Inversions gradually introduced to reduce compression of the spine
- Overall improvements in flexibility, stability strength and posture and a reduction in pain!
The research shows that Yoga can be beneficial in helping improve low back pain, both physically and mentally. Yoga guided by qualified, experienced instructors can help to significantly reduce low back pain and help to correct musculoskeletal imbalances that have let to the pain in the first place, therefore potentially healing if practiced regular.
Williams, Kimberly Anne, et al. “Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain.” Pain 115.1-2 (2005): 107-117
Grotle, Margreth, and Kåre Birger Hagen. “Yoga classes may be an alternative to physiotherapy for people with chronic nonspecific low back pain [synopsis].” Journal of physiotherapy 64.1 (2018): 57.
Tekur, Padmini, et al. “Effect of short-term intensive yoga program on pain, functional disability and spinal flexibility in chronic low back pain: a randomized control study.” The journal of alternative and complementary medicine 14.6 (2008): 637-644.
Sherman, Karen J., et al. “Comparing yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial.” Annals of internal medicine 143.12 (2005): 849-856.
Nambi, Gopal S et al. “Changes in pain intensity and health related quality of life with Iyengar yoga in nonspecific chronic low back pain: A randomized controlled study” International journal of yoga vol. 7,1 (2014): 48-53.