Many people when calling me for yoga classes want to know if yoga will help their back pain. And usually my answer to them is yes. However before you consider yoga as an alternative therapeutic form for your back pain, there are a few considerations. Whether you have acute or chronic back pain or just sciatica, you should first visit your doctor and ensure that you have the endorsement of your doctor to start yoga. Reducing back pain in your life will be a team effort between you, me and your doctor and in that regard I will need all the information you have about your pain.
In the case of Yoga for back pain or sciatica, most people usually first feel a worsening of the back pain as your muscles start to adjust to the asanas and the new postures your body is required to perform. People suffering from sciatica usually find immediate relief and long term healing. Depending on the severity of your back pain and the years of neglect through diet and lack of exercise and proper care yoga will make it either worse initially or it will bring immediate relief. However, I find that most people with back pain have neglected their muscles and bodies to such an extent that building them up through yoga takes considerable time and effort coupled with a severity in back pain before they start to reap the benefits of a regular yoga practice.
After trying a variety of solutions, most people tend to continue with anything that helps them manage, or eliminate pain. With that said, Yoga asana classes are often part of a larger solution for pain management and in some cases, the complete elimination of back pain.
Also remember that going to a general yoga class where there is a mix of people with different needs, that the asanas will not be specific for your problem. Therefore, it would be wise to schedule private Yoga sessions with me in order to compile a programme that will benefit your problem most.
A short description of back pain
Back pain is a common musculoskeletal symptom that may be either acute or chronic. It may be caused by a variety of diseases and disorders that affect the lumbar spine.
Low back pain may be experienced in several different ways:
- Localized. In localized pain the patient will feel soreness or discomfort when the doctor palpates, or presses on, a specific surface area of the lower back.
- Diffuse. Diffuse pain is spread over a larger area and comes from deep tissue layers.
- Radicular. The pain is caused by irritation of a nerve root. Sciatica is an example of radicular pain.
- Referred. The pain is perceived in the lower back but is caused by inflammation elsewhere—often in the kidneys or lower abdomen.
A short description of sciatica
The sciatic nerve is irritated just as it leaves the spinal cord. It is unusual to feel sciatica symptoms in the back. Usually the pain is felt along the ‘distribution’ of the nerve or in other words in the area that the nerve supplies. This means that sciatica is often felt as a spreading leg pain.
Pain resulting from irritation of the sciatic nerve, typically felt from the low back to behind the thigh and radiating down below the knee. Diagnosis is by observation of symptoms, physical and nerve testing, and sometimes by X-ray or MRI if a herniated disk is suspected.
In conclusion, yoga can definitely help to alleviate your back or sciatic pain, but this is not an instant cure, it will take time, effort and discipline in the beginning. However, you should be able to experience relief within the first 6-12 months of a regular and dedicated asana practice. During private sessions we will also consider the emotional, mental and spiritual causes and issues for sciatica and back pain, as most pain isn’t just a purely physical condition.