Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek out physical therapy care, and clients often ask if yoga can improve their low back symptoms. Therefore, as part of National Yoga Month this September, Tru-Care Physical Therapy would like to share some insight why yoga is often considered effective in the treatment of back pain.
Yoga has many benefits that assist in the management of low back pain that include improving posture, increasing flexibility, and stabilizing the spine by increasing core strength.
First, and most importantly, yoga can help improve postural imbalances that lead to low back pain. You can increase body awareness with basic poses. The most basic of all standing yoga poses or “asanas” is Tadasana or Mountain pose. At first glance it may seem like you are simply standing. However, it is the attention to “how” you are standing that makes it so important. For guided instruction on how to do mindful Tadasana pose see the previous post on standing posture from May 2013.
The next benefit of yoga is increasing flexibility of the spine and extremities. The main components of spinal motion are flexion (forward bending), extension (backwards bending), rotation (twisting), and lateral flexion (side bending). Yoga asanas address all of the motions of the spine through poses of various intensity and difficulty. Below are some gentle yoga poses that address each of these motions.
When performing these poses listen to your body so you do not cause pain. Take slow, deep breaths and try to increase your motions. The pictures below are taken from www.yogajournal.com which is a great reference for all things yoga. The Yoga Journal site also provides step by step instructions to safely perform each of these poses.
- Cow: improves back bending (extension) of the spine.
As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight forward.
Exhale, coming back to neutral “tabletop” position on your hands
and knees. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
- Cat: Improves forward bending (flexion) of the spine.
As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to
keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head
toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
* Cat and cow can be held as isolated stretches for 30 secs each (2-3 reps)or you can move between the two poses with each breath doing 10-15 reps of each.
- Child’s Pose Stretch: improves lumbar flexion. It is also a great place to begin side bending by walking both hands to one side creating length in the side of the body.
Begin kneeling and sit onto your heels.
Reach arms forward in front of you and lower your head toward the floor.
Sustain the position 30-90 secs relaxing into the pose with each breath.
- Supine Spinal Twist: improves rotation of the spine. Performing twists lying on your back is the safest place to begin twisting because the back is supported, minimizing stress on the spine.
Begin on your back with arms to the sides.
Turn your head to the right.
Bring your right knee up and across your left leg<.
Let your right leg rest across the left stretching towards the floor.
Child’s pose and spinal twist can be performed for 30-60 secs. Attend to your breath as you slowly let your low back stretch.
For more detailed instruction in performing these yoga poses you can again refer to www.yogajournal.com
Next post will instruct in 2 hip stretches that will effect the low back, as well as more information on breath and balance. If you have any questions or are interested in more information on this topic check out www.trucarept.com or contact Ericka at (401) 884-9541
Post contributed by: Ericka Fryburg MPT
Ever notice that when you get into your car at the end of the day you need to readjust the mirrors? Somehow you are not sitting as tall as you did when you got into the car in the morning. Are you shrinking?
Well, yes, in a way you are. The discs in your back are cushions of sorts and they react to pressure. After a good nights sleep lying stretched out without compression on your spine the discs are full and plump. This makes your spine a little longer and taller. Once you are up sitting, walking and vertical all day gravity takes its effect and slowly compresses those discs. As they compress they loss a bit of fluid and and become a bit narrower bringing your vertebrae closer together. Essentially you are shorter than when you started your day!
Over time our discs become "dehydrated" and are less plump and flexible. This is part of the reason that over our lifetime we may lose up to 2 inches or so. On average we begin shrinking at about age 40 and lose about a 1/4 inch per decade. If you are losing more height than that some other issues may be involved. You could be losing muscle bulk and decreased strength allowing for poor posture that can result in decreased height. Osteoporosis could also be a culprit as the bones lose density they can also compress.
So don't be surprised when you need to adjust your mirrors. It's part of standing upright all day. If you feel you are losing more than the average be sure to check in with your physician or physical therapist to be sure there are no other factors involved. Try to keep yourself active, maintain your muscle tone and strength. These will keep you standing tall. Visit RI Limb Prosthetics, Orthotics And Physical Therapy for more information or call (401) 884-9541
Thanks for checking out our second post on Posture in the month of May. Last week we told you what "optimal posture" would look like. Today's article incorporates some self mobility, assessment and awareness to work on correcting your posture by sensing were you are in space. Let us know how it feels when you get your self "stacked up right" (or is it "upright"!!!)
Standing Postural Assessment 2:
You can also check your posture by bringing awareness to your body. Give it a try on your own, or come see Erin at our yoga classes Tuesday at 8 AM or Thursday at 7:30 PM.
Moving up, stack your knees directly over your ankles. Then hips over your knees. Check in!
- Do you have equal weight on each leg?
- Are you able keep muscles relaxed along the front and back of your legs?
Now, bring your attention to your tailbone and pelvis. Your center of gravity is located here. Tip your pelvis forward and backward a few times. Then, settle so your tailbone is pointing down towards the floor directly between your feet and your belly is tightened slightly like you are zipping up a pair of pants.
Continue by moving your attention up your spine stacking each vertebrae on top of one another. Now, turn your attention to your rib cage, gently rock forward and back a few times to feel gravity pull you in each direction.
- Settle in the middle so your rib cage is stacked over your hips and you feel like your rib cage is floating effortlessly over your abdomen.
Bring your attention to your shoulders. Shift your shoulder blades up and down, forward and back, then in circles. Settle with your palms facing forward, your shoulder blades gently pinching and your chest opening.
Now move your attention up your neck, one segment at a time until you get to the base of your head. Gently tuck your chin so the crown of your head is reaching towards the ceiling and the base of your head is gently resting on the top of your neck.
Imagine yourself being pulled from the crown of the head along that "plumb line" that we discussed in the previous post.
- Lengthen out your body, reversing the effects of gravity. Stand tall and feel what it is like to draw awareness to your posture.
As always we hope the information is helpful in your daily pursuit of good health and improvements in mobility.