Chronic neck and back pain can wear even the toughest person down after a while. Although taking medication may relieve some of the discomfort, medication often comes with unwanted side effects. What is available to those who are suffering besides just “toughing it out” or taking medication?
Yoga, the ancient Indian art of exercise, may be exactly what the doctor ordered. According to the National Library of Medicine, it is a combination of stretching and strengthening the muscles and appears to help alleviate discomfort to those who suffer from nonspecific lower back and neck pain. Caution is always warranted when getting ready to try a new form of exercise, though. Check with your doctor before you begin to see if yoga may be right for you.
The National Library of Medicine reports that yoga may not only help with reducing pain, but it may also increase mobility. The study cites that at least six different test groups, comprised of 570 patients, showed improvement for short-term pain. Harvard Medical School agrees with the findings, stating that like any form of exercise, yoga often helps alleviate lower back pain.
Regular exercise that strengthens core muscles is known for helping with back pain, so what makes yoga so special? One reason may be the ease of accessibility: More people are simply participating in this ancient form of exercise. Another reason may be because it focuses on stretching and strengthening the core muscles that help with posture without being hard and pounding on the joints.
Just because lots of people are doing yoga and finding relief doesn’t mean that you should jump in without a little research first. Some of the poses may actually do more harm than good if you suffer from lower back pain. Prevention lists six poses to avoid.
- Camel – a backbend that is meant to stretch the abdominals but can also harm those who suffer from low back pain or disc issues.
- Lunge Twist – a twist of the torso against the hips that those who have problems with bulging discs or lower back pain should avoid.
- Full Wheel – another backbend that requires a lot of stretching and flexibility to perform it without injury. For those who suffer from bulging discs and lower back pain, this is another no-no.
- Boat – a tilt of the lower lumbar that can simply aggravate lower back pain.
- Seated forward fold – a stretch that is supposed to help with calves and hamstrings, but that, in reality, tilts vertebrae towards each other making disc compressions something to be concerned about.
- Shoulder stand – placing all of your body’s weight on the upper shoulders and neck, if it’s done incorrectly, you may end up resting your weight on the cervical spine, causing pain and damage.
Although you need to avoid some poses, you shouldn’t wash your hands of yoga and walk away. Everyday Health shares a list of poses that are beneficial to those who suffer from neck and back pain.
- Upward-facing dog – stretches out your abdominal muscles while working out back muscles.
- Downward-facing dog – stretches the opposite direction, working on your hamstrings and back extensors.
- Child’s pose – elongates the back and is great for helping relax before bed.
- Cat and cow – includes arching your back like a cat, stretching tight lower back muscles, and then straightening your back and stretching your head up.
- Upward forward bend – has you standing and folding in half, stretching your spine, calves, and hamstrings.
- Pigeon pose – helps those who are tight through the hips, loosening them and alleviating back pressure.
- Triangle pose – lengthens the torso muscles. If you force the stretch and try to reach the floor, you could do damage to your back, so don’t go farther than is comfortable.
Whatever your reason for deciding to try yoga, be sure to be informed. Let your body be your guide; don’t push when it hurts, but gradually build to each new position. Yoga isn’t for everyone, but it may be just what you need.