chronic back painBy Faye Martins

What can Yoga do for chronic back pain? From a point of pure speculation, it might be a fair guess to assume that 10% of the world’s population is affected by back pain. However, let’s look at the statistics in just one country. Back pain is something that impacts more than 31 million Americans in a year’s time, according to the American Chiropractic Association, and a study conducted in 2010 called the Global Burden of Disease, which determined that lower back pain is a leading cause for missed days at work. The majority of cases noted in this study were not caused by infections or disorders, whether metabolic or degenerative, but rather by mechanical problems like severe physical trauma.



There are quite a few suggested prevention strategies for back aches, such as maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding heavy lifting without assistance, maintaining perfect posture, and avoiding long periods of resting the back muscles. Many people find that they follow these instructions to the best of their ability, but they still succumb to crippling pains associated with back problems. For these people and many more, yoga could be the answer to managing their back pain and making life significantly better, with the absence of chronic and nagging back aches.

The four main focal points of yoga postures are stretching, strengthening, balance, and increasing flexibility. These factors, when a yoga pose is practiced properly and consistently, will lead to better long-term management of pain for both the upper and lower back. Poses that focus on the spine allow for better centered strength in the back and an enhanced posture, which leads to the quelling of back pain over time. Bending chest stretches also promote health in the upper back, while many waist stretches will decrease the effects of a lower back ache.


Where to Start 

The classic yoga pose known as the Downward-Facing Dog can make managing back pain easier; although this does depend on the fitness level of the participants. This it is not a pose that inactive beginners can perform immediately; it is a pose that stretches the entire body with a heavy focus on the extensor muscles in the back. This posture also allows for the spine to adjust slightly due to gravity, allowing the vertebrae to line up in a more natural position, and leading to decreased back pain caused by spinal pressure. The Upward-Facing Dog is a member of the back bending family of yoga postures that also benefits the back muscles, as well as abdominal muscles.

Another therapeutic yoga pose that benefits the back, and assists in managing back pain, is the Triangle pose, which offers the additional benefits of strengthening the core and legs, as well. This pose alleviates the pain from chronic back inflammation, as well as sciatica and neck pain, both of which contribute heavily to the problems of chronic back pain. Alleviating the contributing factors is a huge step towards managing back aches for long-term considerations.


What Can Teachers and Schools Do for Chronic Back Pain

Beside our activities of teaching in the corporate sector, many of our students could use a workshop about back health and pain reduction. Additionally, teachers who know how to use props can easily teach students who have been inactive how to practice Downward-Facing Dog with a chair, Triangle with blocks or a chair, and lower Cobra variations for back bends.

The Type of Instructor Needed for Chronic Back Pain

The manager of a Yoga school knows the unique talents of each instructor. There are just as many people with back pain as there are hard core athletes. If you want to open your doors to twice as much business, you have to assign the right teacher to the right class. Most yoga instructors tend to specialize and find students with similar interests. Therefore, a teacher with an excellent track record of student safety, and one who has a therapeutic or restorative background, is needed in workshops or classes that specialize in reducing back pain.

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