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Yoga Exercises for Back Pain: Do they Work

By Dr. Kristie

If you suffer from chronic back pain, you know it’s no laughing matter. The constant pain and diminished mobility can take its toll on you both physically and mentally.

To add to the frustration, many of the medications used to treat back pain such as muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications have undesirable side effects of their own. Fortunately, there’s evidence that yoga exercises for back pain may have some benefits in terms of pain relief and increasing functionality.

This study which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared the use of yoga exercises for back pain with conventional exercise classes, and use of a self-help book on relieving back pain.

The yoga classes consisted of guided relaxation and breathing exercises along with poses designed to take the pressure off of the back. The conventional exercise class featured both aerobic and strengthening segments. The third group who received the self-help book only had no exercises or other instruction.

The results of this study showed that the participants in all three groups had improvement in their pain scores as well as better functionality, but the participants receiving the yoga classes had the most improvement in their back pain symptoms six months after completing the classes with many of them able to successfully come off of their medications. 

Although in this study, the conventional exercise group also showed benefits, yoga appeared to be the more effective. Why would yoga exercises for back pain be more beneficial than conventional exercise?

It’s believed that the mental exercises associated with yoga may promote relaxation and a more positive outlook which could play a role in reducing pain as well as increase the ability to function on a daily basis. Yoga classes for back pain may also have the advantage of being more enjoyable which might mean better participation in the long term.

If you suffer from lower back pain, should you consider signing up for yoga classes? While other studies have shown that exercise can benefit back pain, studies of yoga for back pain have been more limited.

It seems likely that in some cases of back pain, yoga could be beneficial for relieving back pain and spasm, although it would be important to avoid attempting yoga poses that could put additional strain on the back.

Be sure to sign up for a basic, beginner’s class where the poses wouldn’t be too strenuous for your back. If a move seems too taxing for your back, avoid doing it.

There’s no doubt that movement can help many cases of lower back pain and yoga exercises for back pain provide another potential option for treating your pain naturally. 

About the Author

She is a Medical Doctor with a concentration in Family Practice. She also has an undergraduate degree in both Biology and Psychology and masters in Clinical Pathology.


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