Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga for Back Pain – Why It Works

For thousands of years, yoga has been associated with healing and the relief of pain, especially lower back pain, chronic back pain and back muscle spasms.

What Do Yoga Practitioners Say?

If you ever set foot into a yoga studio, spend some time and talk to the students in the yoga classes. Ask them what were the circumstances that brought them to yoga.

You’ll find that many of them had pain that made them dependent on prescription medications. Their body was stiff and inflexible and it may have hurt a little bit when first getting into the different yoga postures, but with persistence their pain slowly decreased and finally was gone. They had found a solution for chronic back pain.

The Relationship Between Back Pain and Inactivity

Many people who have back pain, chronic back pain, or back muscle spasms find that their body is stiff and inflexible. They are unable to move as they usually move. As time goes on, they begin to move like a person who is much older.

This is because when you have lower back pain, chronic back pain, or back muscle spasms, it’s not long before you decrease your daily activities as well as every extra movement that is not essential to your daily survival. This results in stiff muscles and joints and weakness. The stiffness and weakness results in more pain and back muscle spasms. It becomes an endless cycle.

Can Yoga Help My Lower Back Pain and Back Muscle Spasms?

But with yoga studios available everywhere, it’s possible that yoga could make a difference in the life of someone with lower back pain, chronic back pain and back muscle spasms.  There are two reasons for this:

  1. In yoga classes you are asked to put your body in a certain position or posture. You’ll hold that position for awhile – maybe even a few minutes. When holding a posture, certain parts of the body receive blood flow while other body parts have their circulation reduced drastically.

When you move your body out of the posture, a rush of new blood flow goes into the body parts and organs, bringing healing nutrients with it. According to the yogi masters, it is this process that keeps them young and spry as well as eventually eliminating lower back pain, which may have become chronic.

  1. Another reason why yoga works to reduce the pain of back pain is based on the anatomy of a muscle fiber and the physiology of the stretch. There are two types of receptors in the body that will reduce spasm – the intrafusal muscle fibers and the Golgi tendon organs.

Intrafusal muscle fibers lie inside a muscle and sense what is happening to the muscle. Golgi tendon organs lie within the tendons and cause the muscles to relax when stretched.

When you first start doing a yoga posture, the intrafusal fibers resist your stretch and increase the amount of spasm. But over a short time – two minutes or less – these fibers reduce their resistance, and the Golgi tendon organ starts to take over, causing the muscle to relax. Then a domino effect occurs in the body as the relaxation effect travels elsewhere in the body, making other muscles less tense.

Staying in a yoga pose relies on a reflex at the spinal cord level, and is another way to affect back muscle spasms. The relaxation that this brings affects other parts of the central nervous system.

So as you see, there’s a physiological response that occurs in your body when you do these yoga postures.

Two More Benefits From Yoga

For those with lower back pain, chronic back pain and back muscle spasms, working on the agonists and antagonistic muscle balance in the body can certainly be a way to create relief of spasm – and relief of back pain.

When you bring a coffee cup up to your mouth, you are essentially doing a biceps curl. You’re using your biceps muscle. But you’re also using your triceps muscle to stabilize your arm. The biceps and triceps muscles are a pair of agonist and antagonist muscles. They oppose each other.

When you bend your body forward, you contract your stomach muscles and relax the lower back muscles. Thus, holding this position for a few minutes not only keeps the abdominal muscles contracted and works on the intrafusal fibers and Golgi tendon organs of those muscles, but it also works on the muscle pairs in the body to balance them.

Yoga also extends the range of motion that your joints can move through.  When the capsule around the joint is engaged, it will pump out more synovial fluid, which lubricates your aching joints. This results in less and less pain.

How Do I Know If Yoga Isn’t For Me?

If you start performing some yoga postures, you’ll feel a slight increase in pain. This is normal and results from the stretch. Pain from stretch is different than pain from other causes. Because of the intrafusal muscle fiber/Golgi tendon organ response in the body, this pain should subside.

Lower back pain, chronic back pain and back muscle spasms that are associated with activities, negative moods, or a new pair of shoes will usually be relieved quickly with yoga.

However, if you have shooting pains and muscle weakness or experience numbness or tingling, these are red flags that your pain should be checked out more thoroughly from a physician.