By Dr. Rita Khanna
What is the Yogic approach for chronic backache? Our back or spine is like the pillar on which the entire body rests but the strongest part can also be the vulnerable spot if not taken care of well. About 80% of the people suffer from back pain at some time or the other in their lives.
The spine consists of many small bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae are further divided into five sections, namely the cervical region (the neck area) which contains 7 vertebrae (C1 to C7), the thoracic region (the chest area) which contains 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12), the lumber region (the abdominal area) consists of 5 vertebrae (L1 to L5), the sacrum region (the pelvic area) consists of 5 vertebrae (S1 to S5), and the coccyx region (the tail bone area) consists of 4 vertebrae.
These vertebrae are separated by discs which allow the spine to bend. In a slumped posture, instead of the weight passing through these discs there is pressure on the facet joints of the spine which are not designed to be weight bearing. Gradually this can lead to localized pain at these joints and surrounding tissues, producing swelling from the loss of fluids from minute tears. This clears away in the healing process but leaves a residual area of scarring, hardened tissues and weakness. However, not all back pain is from facet joints (facet joints of the spine allow back motion); it can come from soft tissues (tendons, cartilage, ligaments) and surrounding muscles and from the nerves as they emerge from the spinal column.
What are the causes of chronic backache? Lack of exercise, standing or bending forward for long periods, slip disc, cervical problems spondylosis, lumbar spondylosis, overgrowth of bones, pain in the pelvic region or pelvis, gastroenteritis, chest pain, constipation, kidney problems, sprains, using the wrong mattress ( Mattress should neither be too soft nor too hard), bad posture, drooping shoulders, sitting in a sloppy manner or with a bent back (at your workplace make sure you use a comfortable chair with a backrest), watching T.V. lying on the bed or the sofa, carrying a heavy load on your back like a school bag, laptop, shopping bags, slinging bulky bags which apply pressure only on one side of the shoulder, wearing high heels, a sudden gain of weight, obesity or beer bellies, degeneration of bones,driving with the chair tilted back etc .
Solutions for Constant Back Pain
Regular practice of Yoga is beneficial for people with chronic backache and it also helps relieve pain in the neck and the shoulders. Let’s begin with correctly aligned posture in the standing position:
• Bring the feet a few inches apart (10 cm) and parallel to each other. Then bring the awareness into the soles of the feet and gently rock backwards and forwards coming up onto the toes and back onto the heels. Then return to a standstill position and feel the contact with the floor through both feet. The body sways and the weight moves forwards and back and left and right quite naturally. Be grounded through the feet and allow them to take the weight evenly.
• Make sure that the knees are unlocked and pull up the kneecaps. If they point in towards the centre then rotate the thighs outwards and tighten the buttocks.
• Now tilt the pelvis backwards and forwards finding the balance so that the spine can grow comfortably upwards out of the hips.
• Bring the shoulders up and back, and let them go wide with the arms hanging loosely.
• Hold the head and neck upright so that the ears are above the top of the shoulders and the head feels lightly balanced on top of the neck.
• Imagine that a string is attached to the top of the head and that someone is lifting the head up and out of the shoulders. Feel how your posture alters when you ‘let go’ of this imaginary string.
Lying in supine positions:
Supta Tadasana, Ek Pada Uttanansana, Kati Makarasana, Ardha Pavanmuktasana, Pavanmuktasana
Lying in prone positions:
Makarasana, Bhujangasana, Ardha Shalabhasana, Naukasana
In sitting position:
Vakrasana, Brahma Mudra (neck exercise slow)
Kapalbhati, (In case you have acute backache, don’t do Kapalbhati), Anulom Vilom Pranayama
• Lie down with the face up on the wooden bench.
• Relax the body.
• Keep both the fists open, legs a little relaxed and widespread.
• Now listen to the beating of the heart.
• Remain a witness of the inhalation as well as exhalation.
• Breathe 50 times slowly with breath consciousness
• Create a feeling that your body is peaceful, composed and completely disease free.
• In this manner, without the movement of any part of the body, remaining fully composed having no restlessness of any type, go deep into mentally quiet attitude.
Benefits of the Above Asanas
• The vertebral column and the discs between the vertebrae are made strong and flexible.
• The spinal cord is massaged.
• Increase the blood flow into the spinal cord ensuring a good supply of nutrients.
• The autonomic nervous system is rebalanced and toned up by the action of the blood supply and the massaging effects.
• The back muscles are strengthened and nourished by the increased flow of blood.
• Posture is readjusted and corrected, removing spinal deformities. Backache will be cured by relaxing tense muscles, releasing compression of the spinal nerves and removing general body fatigue.
• The whole body is made healthy through these asanas. The abdominal organs are massaged and Manipura Chakra, the Pranic centre of the body, is stimulated and rebalanced. The lungs are fully inflated and massaged, cleaned and stretched. The heart is stimulated and cleansed. The blood is purified more efficiently by the lungs, kidneys and liver. The brain benefits from an increased amount of blood. Massage of the spinal cord also improves brain function. When the spinal cord and brain are relaxed and the whole body is toned up, chronic backache is eliminated.
To Be Avoided
Sit ups, avoid double leg raising, Halasana (plough pose), Sarvangasana (full shoulder stand) , Forward bends, Trikonasana twisting to the opposite foot and variation 2 with the arm stretched over the head, lying on the side and lifting both legs up, Shalabhasana (full locust pose) Dhanurasana (bow pose)- can be done with knees remaining on the floor, Vyaghrasana (tiger pose)- is OK if the leg being raised does not go past 15 degrees above the horizontal (the lumbar spine is stressed beyond this point especially when the movement is done too quickly), Paschimottanasana (back stretching pose) is not recommended to stretch hamstrings, Squatting and Vajrasana to be avoided where knee problems exist.
If you are feeling your chronic backache become more uncomfortable while doing Yoga Asanas alone, do not push yourself. It will be helpful to actually sign up for som