Most of us experience a stiff, painful lower back at some point in our lives. You know that feeling when you have to move slowly and gingerly as you get out of bed. You then struggle to put your socks on without your back twinging. Luckily, most of the time it’s not serious and is usually caused by a minor injury, poor posture or even stress. It’s called ‘Non-Specific Back Pain’ because it’s not caused by a medical condition like sciatica, osteoporosis or a slipped (prolapsed) disc.
With more people working from home, niggly back pain caused by poor posture is becoming more common. Picture your back as you sit hunched over a PC at the kitchen table on a chair that doesn’t support you properly. Or like me as I type this blog, perched on the edge of a sofa with a laptop on a small table which is at the wrong height for my body. Or perhaps you’re slumped on the sofa (or in bed!) with your tablet balanced on your lap. Hours spent in these positions will compress your spine and cause your back, shoulder and neck muscles to round forward, and tense as well as stiffen up.
Regular stretching and simple yoga poses can help prevent and alleviate Non-Specific Back Pain. I often have people attend my classes because their GP, physiotherapist or even a well-meaning friend has told them that yoga would help with their backache. Many times, after just a few weeks, those students are expressing delight becaue their back pain has subsided and they feel more flexible. Research confirms this with various studies showing yoga can be good for backs. Just one example is a study led by the University of York which found that a 12 week yoga course aimed at back pain sufferers was a cost-effective treatment, and had long-term health benefits for patients.
Why is Yoga is good for Back Pain?
As well as the obvious benefit of improving flexibility, there are also a number of other reasons:
Body Awareness – Yoga teaches you to be focused on what you can feel in your body as you move in and out of a pose. The slow, controlled movements mean you can move into a stretch at the right intensity for your body. If you feel a sharp or intense pain you are encouraged to come out of a stretch until you reach the level that’s right for you.
Whole Body Approach – You’re not just working on the back. Yoga encompasses the whole body and surprisingly often back pain might actually be caused by tight hip or thigh muscles. During a yoga class you will bend forwards, backwards and sideways. Your spine will lengthen and twist. Some poses will be seated and at other times you will be lying down or standing. Some poses stretch the legs, whilst others open up the chest or the hips. By the end of a session your spine will have moved in a wide variety of directions and your body will feel more open and light.
Releasing Tension – In today’s stressful world many of us hold tension in our backs, particularly around the upper back and shoulders. If we don’t let go of that tension our muscles become rigid and tight. This restricts movement, giving rise to poor posture and making us more prone to injury. Most yoga styles synchronise stretching with the breath, encouraging you to breathe deeper as you move into and hold a pose. The slow, deep breathing when combined with movement encourages muscles to relax and discharge tension.
Strengthening Muscles – It’s not just about flexibility; yoga also strengthens many of the key muscles. Prone backbends like Cobra, where you’re lying on your belly and gently raising the torso upwards, help to strengthen back. Poses like Bridge pose and Bird Dog strengthen your core muscles, which provide essential support for your whole back.
If you want to use yoga to prevent or relieve Non-Specific Back Pain then I can help you. As an experienced Yoga Therapist and Teacher I can tailor a yoga session to meet the needs of your specific back problem, which fits in with your budget and availability. Visit my Yoga Therapy
page for more details.