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Yoga for Healthy Back

Back pain is one of the most common physical complaints among adults; some estimates say that over 20% of adults have some chronic back pain. It is the chief cause of misery for many. At some point in their lives, most people will experience some sort of back discomfort. It is pain or discomfort felt in the upper, middle, or lower back. The pain may extend to the hips and legs.

Causes of Back Pain
The back consists of a complex arrangement of bone, ligaments, joints, muscles, and nerves, and pain can result from a problem with any of these components.The most common type of back pain is low back pain. That's because the lower portion of the back is under the most pressure when a person is sitting or lifting, and it can be easily damaged.

There are many causes of back pain
• The most common cause is a strain of the back, which is a small tear of the back muscles or ligaments. This usually results from a sudden or awkward movement, or from lifting a heavy object. But often, a person can't remember a particular incident that brought on the pain.

• Poor posture, back strain from poorly designed furniture, weak back and stomach muscles from lack of exercise, and injuries.

• Other common causes include poor muscle tone in the back, tension or spasm of the back muscles and problems with the joints that make up the back

Symptom of Back Pain
Pain in the lumbosacral area (lower part of the back) is the primary symptom of low back pain. The pain may radiate down the front, side, or back of your leg, or it may be confined to the low back. The pain may become worse with activity.

Occasionally, the pain may be worse at night or with prolonged sitting such as on a long car trip. You may have numbness or weakness in the part of the leg that receives its nerve supply from a compressed nerve. An example of this would be an inability to plantar flex the foot. This means you would be unable to stand on your toes or bring your foot downward. This occurs when the first sacral nerve is compressed or injured.

Another example would be the inability to raise your big toe upward. This results when the fifth lumbar nerve is compromised.
When you feel pain, it is really a reaction to signals transmitted throughout your body. These signals are sent from the pain source such as a sore back, through the nerves in the spinal cord, and up to the brain, where they are perceived as pain.

Different Types of Pain
The origin of some pain is neuropathic, while other pain is nociceptive. This is important to know because different treatments work better for each type of pain.

Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to nerve tissue. It is often felt as a burning or stabbing pain. One example of neuropathic pain is a "pinched nerve."

Nociceptive pain is caused by an injury or disease outside the nervous system. It is often an ongoing dull ache or pressure, rather than the sharper, trauma-like pain that is characteristic of neuropathic pain. One example of nociceptive pain is arthritis pain.Some people experience mixed pain, which is a combination of neuropathic and nociceptive pain.

Chronic versus Acute Back Pain
Chronic back pain is commonly described as deep, aching, dull or burning pain in one area of the back or traveling down the legs. Patients may experience numbness, tingling, burning, or a pins-and-needles type sensation in the legs. Regular daily activities may prove difficult or impossible for the chronic back pain patient. They may find it difficult or unbearable to work, for example, even when the job does not require manual labor. Chronic back pain tends to last a long time, and is not relieved by standard types of medical management. It may result from a previous injury long since healed, or it may have an ongoing cause, such as nerve damage or arthritis.

Acute back pain is commonly described as a very sharp pain or a dull ache, usually felt deep in the lowerpart of the back, and can be more severe in one area, such as the right side, left side, center, or the lower part of the back. Acute pain can be intermittent, but is usually constant, only ranging in severity.

Mechanical back pain is a form of acute pain aggravated by movement and worsened by coughing. This type of pain is usually alleviated with rest. Mechanical back pain is typical of a herniated disc or stress fracture. For patients with this condition, forward movements of the spine usually cause pain. In addition, posture, coughing, sneezing, and movement can all influence pain coming from the spine. When acute back pain is severe and travels down both legs, it could be caused by lumber disc diseases the most common cause of Sciatica.

Diagnosis of Acute Back Pain

X-rays - Painless, non-invasive imaging process that utilizes photographic film to absorb electromagnetic radiation — having an extremely short wavelength and the ability to penetrate solids of various thicknesses — transmitted through a material body. These images, also known as radiographs or roentgenograms, are used to diagnose and monitor the treatment of various disorders.

• CAT Scan (computed axial tomography scan also called a CT scan (computed tomography scan) - Another painless imaging technique that utilizes a computer to produce detailed three-dimensional images of a body from a collation of cross-sectional X-rays taken along an axis. Of all the imaging techniques that are currently available, the CAT scan is best able to produce images of bone, blood, and soft tissues.

• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - Non-invasive technique for imaging the spine that involves rotating a magnet around the body and exciting its hydrogen atoms. A scanner is then utilized to detect the energy emitted by the excited atoms. MRIs provide exceptional detail of the spine's anatomy, since the human body is composed primarily of water, which is two parts hydrogen. The single most useful test available for diagnosing spinal disorders.

Myelogram - A test procedure that involves injecting a radiographic contrast media (dye) into the sac (dura) surrounding the spinal cord and nerves, and then taking X-rays of the spine. This allows the radiologist to specifically X-ray the nerve roots. In this way, any abnormalities within the spinal canal can potentially be identified to aid in the diagnosis of certain spinal problems, such as nerve compression or a disc rupture.

Bone Scan - A test procedure that involves intravenously injecting a small quantity of a radiographic marker into the patient, and then running a scanner over the area of concern. The scanner detects the marker, which concentrates in any region exhibiting high bone turnover. A bone scan is utilized when there is suspicion of tumor, infection, or small fractures, i.e., conditions that all result in high bone turnover. A Bone Scan does not replace the above tests, but may provide additional information by eliminating other serious problems.

Treatment of Back Pain
Yoga has been used for thousands of years to promote health and prevent disease, and many people with back problems have found yoga to provide several benefits, including: Relieving pain, Increasing strength and flexibility and teaching relaxation and acceptance.

Many people believe that rest is best for a painful back, but actually, what your back really needs when it’s hurt is exercise. Regular exercise relieves back pain by strengthening and stretching the muscles that support the spine and helps to prevent future injury. This is a use it or lose it situation: the more you rest, the weaker your back gets, even if it is hurt. Studies have actually shown that you can heal your back pain faster and get back to your regular activities with just two days of rest.

Many physicians recommend Yoga exercise as a way to gently stretch and strengthen back muscles. In fact, if you’ve had physical therapy, you’ll probably recognize several Yoga movements. In Yoga, a strong, flexible back is very important for maintaining posture, for insuring that the nervous system pathways are strong and clear, for improving circulation to the brain, and for maintaining the erect posture necessary for seated meditation in intermediate practice.

Yoga exercises can be helpful both in preventing and in healing from an injury. Many Yoga exercises gently stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hips, back, and legs; others improve muscle strength in the abdomen, which supports the lower back. In most people, muscles on one side of the body are stronger than those on the other; Yoga exercises stretch and strengthen both sides equally. If you practice every day, you will soon notice more relaxed posture and a more fluid carriage, and your back muscles won’t tire as easily. You’ll also learn how to recognize tension in your back and neck muscles more quickly so that you can release it before the muscles become tight and sore.
If you have suffered an injury to your back or neck, begin with extremely gentle movements that do not hyperextend the neck or back in either direction. In a class, your instructor will modify the Yoga exercises for you to be sure you don’t strain. Even if you have had back surgery, there will always be some movements you can do. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any new exercise routine.

Breathing techniques and meditation training will teach you how to relax your body and mind at will and to recover faster from stress reactions. For beginning meditation, which is done lying flat so the spine can remain straight without strain, place a few cushions under your thighs and knees to release any pressure on your lower back.

By exercising carefully, and by practicing a simple routine of exercise, breathing, and meditation every day, you can help your back and neck become as strong and healthy as possible.


A good, regular yoga practice will go far in relieving the stress and tension that sometimes cause mild back pain, and in fact, studies have shown that yoga is the number one most effective exercise for relieving back pain. However, not all yoga poses relieve back pain, and some can in fact aggravate existing pain, so it is important to know which poses is the most helpful in relieving back pain. It is best to do these exercises under the supervision of a qualified yoga instructor, and if you encounter any problems with these poses, you should consult an expert. Even just one or two sessions with a yoga instructor can help. Here are some of the best yoga poses for relieving back pain. Each pose should be held from five to ten seconds, depending upon your level of comfort, and should be done on a mat or other soft, supportive surface.

SABASANA (CORPSE): Lie flat on your back in a relaxed position, arms resting at your sides, palms facing up, and legs lying naturally with one feet distance between both legs and knees turned out slightly. If it hurts your back to have your knees turned outward, do this pose with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and out for a few seconds while allowing any tension to leave the body.

BALASANA (CAT STRETCH): Start out on your hands and knees with a flat back. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with fingers spread. Knees should be directly under the hips. Head is held loosely so that you are looking at the floor between your hands. Inhale, and as you exhale, arch your back toward the ceiling, tuck your chin in to your chest so that you are looking at your navel, and tuck your tailbone underneath. Hold, then release back into your original position.

PAWANMUKTASANA (WIND-RELEASING POSE) : Lie flat on your back as in Corpse pose. As you inhale, bend your knee, place your hands right below the knee, and draw your leg towards your chest. Your left leg should remain flat on the floor. Exhale and bring your forehead up to touch your knee. Inhale, and then as you exhale, return to your original position. Repeat with the other leg and again do it with both legs together.

BAKRASANA (TWISTING POSE) : Warning for this pose—it involves twisting your back, so you should take particular care not to twist too far aggravating any existing back pain. This should be a gentle stretch; twist just as far as is comfortable. Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee, lift your right leg over your left, and place your right foot on the floor next to your left knee. Sitting with spine straight, place your left elbow on the right side of your right knee. Bend your left arm so that your left fingertips are touching your right hip, while at the same time, twisting to look over your right shoulder. This is where you need to be careful not to twist too far. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat on the opposite side.

TADASANA (TREE POSE) : Stand with feet facing forward, arms at your sides, weight distributed evenly on both feet. Raise both arms over your head, interlock your fingers, and turn your hands so that your palms are facing upward. Next, place your palms on your head and turn your head so that you are looking slightly upward. Stretch your arms upwards, and at the same time, come up onto your toes if you can do so without pain. Stretch your entire body upward and hold, if you can. Some people have difficulty balancing during this pose, so just do the stretching part if you need to.

MATSYASANA (FISH POSE): Lie on your back with knees bent and arms at your side. Arch your back as far as you comfortably can and raise it off the ground by pushing the floor with your elbows. If you can, tilt your head backwards and rest the crown of your head on the floor. Breathe deeply from the diaphragm and hold pose for one minute if you can.

In recent years, researchers have become interested in studying the effects of yoga on treating disease, and studies are encouraging that yoga can be a useful part of the treatment plan for many medical conditions as varied as heart disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, epilepsy, asthma, addiction, and many neck and back problems.

Although no one treatment works for everyone, many aspects of yoga make it ideal for treating back pain and neck pain. For example, studies have shown that those who practice yoga for as little as twice a week for 8 weeks make significant gains in strength, flexibility, and endurance, which is a basic goal of most rehabilitation programs for back pain or neck pain.

In addition, the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga induce a "relaxation response" that has been found in many studies to assist people in decreasing their pain. Yoga has also been found to be helpful in the treatment of depression and anxiety that often accompany pain problems.


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