Yoga good for Lower Back Pain?

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One of the many reasons whereby people consider doing yoga is because they experience chronic back pains and have heard that Yoga (or Pilates) helps to relieve the pain. But after conducting a simple online search with the terms “Yoga” and “Back Pain”, you will most probably get a list of contradicting results. Some articles agree that Yoga relieves Back Pain while other articles state that Yoga poses are detrimental for back pain. So you may ask; which is it? This brings us back to the root question “Is Yoga good for Lower Back Pain?”. The problem lies in the question itself as is the not right question to ask.

So what is the right question?

The more accurate question should be, “What is the cause of my back pain and is Yoga the right solution for that particular underlying cause?”  Causes of back pain are numerous. If you have been a regular reader of our articles or do a simple search of our site, you will find a long list of articles related to Back Pain such as “3 Common Leading Causes to Back Pain” (at the point when this article was written there were some 360 search results from our site!)

So let us look at the problem from another point of view, “What are the benefits of Yoga from a physiotherapist’s point of view?” Doing Yoga (or Pilates) well requires you to have flexibility, muscle control and stamina. Specific yoga poses require flexibility in specific joints, good muscular balance and control to move into, hold and sustain that pose.

Specific solutions to specific problems

This is where having a close working relationship between the physiotherapist and your Yoga (or Pilates) instructors comes in handy. Suppose in your case, your Lower Back Pain was a result of your poor posture; a sway back posture to be exact (read “Sway Back No More” to find out more). But sway back postures indicate that lower back muscles are “stronger” than the front abdominal muscles (or that the front muscles are too weak), causing the lower back muscles to pull back your upper part of your body.

In this case, after your physiotherapist has released your stiff joints, doing Yoga poses such as “Sun Salutations” (which involves arching your back) will simply worsen your condition as it further “strengthens” the muscles that are too strong, and further weakens the one that are too weak which is detrimental to your condition. The “Boat Pose” instead may be a better option for you as it stretches out your lower back and strengthens your front abdominal muscle.

The better approach

The worst case would be to jump straight into yoga without knowing what has to be done about the pain. Going through a ‘standard’ yoga session may potentially make things worse. There is no ‘standard’ back pain scenario, so taking a ‘standard’ yoga session shouldn’t make sense.

A better approach would be engaging a more experienced yoga instructor for a session where they can take the effort to understand your condition better and perhaps understand what is causing the pain. However, most yoga instructors are not clinicians, thus they lack the medical knowledge.

The best and most effective approach would be a combination of diagnosis and conditioning, where a certified physiotherapist diagnoses the cause of your pain and treats your symptoms. After-which, gradually handing you over to your Yoga (or Pilates) instructor; working together hand-in-hand to focus on your underlying back pain problems.

In conclusion, the answer to the question “Is Yoga good for Lower Back Pain?” depends on a myriad of preexisting conditions and there is no one solution that works the same for anyone experiencing Lower Back pain. So if you are one of them, it is always better to get your pain checked out before dabbling in something that you’ve heard works because what works for others might not necessarily work for you as well.