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Health Team

Yoga could help strengthen core, ease back pain, new guidelines say

Posted March 21

Chronic lower back pain is a common complaint among adults, and doctors often prescribe physical therapy to treat the ailment.

If at all possible, doctors want to avoid prescribing medications for chronic back pain because it can quickly turn into a dangerous addiction. Another option, though, can be an effective remedy: yoga.

For people suffering chronic lower back pain, recent back pain treatment guidelines recommend trying one of a number of pill-free options, which includes yoga.

"We're aware, we're breathing, we're stretching, we're balancing the muscle groups, lubricating the joints, strengthening our core," said Cleveland Clinic yoga program manager Judi Bar. "Those type of things along with the fact that we're just moving will end up helping to support physical therapy and perhaps even enhance to be able to feel better."

The guidelines state that yoga has been shown to provide low to moderate reduction in pain and improved function.

Slouching can overstretch ligaments and add pressure on the lower back muscles, which can cause general back pain. Bar said yoga helps strengthen muscles of the body's core and promotes good posture to help protect the back.

Bar said yoga also incorporate meditation and breathing exercises to promote relaxation, key to managing pain.

"Remember to breathe," Bar said. "That breath can help us to be aware, but it can also help to even mitigate pain."

There are many different types of yoga, so someone with chronic lower back pain should seek out a gentle form of the exercise or perhaps even a chair-based class.

WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask said it's also a good idea to observe a class first and ask if the instructor is experienced in modifying poses for people with chronic conditions.

The guidelines mentioned recommend yoga and other pill-free exercises should be paired with physical therapy. People with back pain should see a doctor first who may want to get an X-ray to make sure there are not more serious issues.

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