An estimated 30 million people in the United States experience low back pain, ranging from mild to severe. Lower lumbar discomfort is one of the most common reasons people see their doctors or miss work, and health care costs of more than $50 billion annually are associated with back pain.
The good news is, moderate back pain can be prevented and improved. Did you know basic stretching and yoga are two strategies that may help loosen up your back muscles and alleviate pain? Learn more about how yoga can help you get back to feeling better.
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What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a spiritual discipline that incorporates focused breathing, meditation, and specific body postures, to promote health and relaxation.
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Does Yoga Help With Back Pain?
A clinical trial published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared yoga, stretching, and self-care for chronic moderate lower back pain. The study’s authors found that weekly yoga classes improved back function and reduced pain in people who took a class for 12 weeks.
The authors also advised that you get your doctor’s recommendations for beginner or therapeutic classes. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program intended to relieve pain.
How Does Yoga Work to Reduce Back Pain?
The postures you practice during yoga can help to strengthen various muscles in your abdomen and back. When these muscles are stronger, your posture improves, reducing stress on your back and decreasing pain.
The full-body stretching and flexing during yoga sequences promotes muscle relaxation and increases flexibility, which can reduce tension in stressed muscles. Stretching also can increase blood flow to the muscles and tissues throughout the body, decreasing muscle pain and fatigue.
When practicing yoga to relieve back pain, some poses may occasionally need to be modified if they involve extreme twisting or bending that could cause additional discomfort. If discomfort persists when postures are modified, you should stop and see your doctor.
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Back Pain
If you are experiencing severe back pain, or would like to find out if yoga could be right for you, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and goals.
At the UPMC Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, we strive to improve your function after injury or illness. Through inpatient therapy at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and outpatient therapy at clinics throughout western Pennsylvania, we help patients recover from functional, pain-related, and neurological conditions. The Department of PM&R is a leader in research, therapy, and advanced rehabilitation technology – not only dedicated to providing you with exceptional clinical care, but focused on developing new technologies and treatments to help you achieve mobility and maintain independence.