New York Post recently ran a feature about 86-year-old Anna Pesce and her journey with the healing power of yoga. Anna suffered from debilitating scoliosis, a herniated disc, and osteoporosis, all of which led to immobility and daily pain.
The 86-year-old’s pain was so bad, and her spine curvature so extreme, that most of the time she couldn’t walk, much less complete every day activities on her own.
According to her interview, she tried acupuncture, physical therapy, and regular appointments with a chiropractor, but nothing worked for more than a few days. Relief from her condition seemed hopeless. That is, until she met Rachel Jesien, who introduced her to yoga.
Rachel is a certified yoga instructor from New York City who also suffered from scoliosis—an extreme curvature of the spine. According to her website, Rachel wore a back brace for years as a child and spent her early adult life looking for relief. She eventually found the Yoga Union Center for Backcare and Scoliosis in New York City. It was there that she not only found healing of her own but also the determination to help others.
Rachel began meeting Anna in her home once a week to help her learn the basics of yoga and to get her on the track toward relief. The benefits were clear; after just one month, Anna could walk again. But the pair didn’t stop there. They have continued to work together to help Anna find consistent relief from back pain. She went from completely hunched over due to her condition to standing upright. She now performs yoga moves that most adults wouldn’t dare attempt—including a handstand!
Anna now knows which moves to turn to for relieving various kinds of back pain that she may experience. Of course, the 86-year-old is not living a completely pain-free life, but she is living a better life. Thanks to yoga, she can now rely on herself to diminish any daily pains—and for a lot more. Doing yoga has provided her with a new sense of independence and self-reliance, something every aging person deserves.
How Yoga Can Help with Back Pain
Yoga is a great way to help alleviate discomfort and heal back pain. Those who have been know just how debilitating living with back pain can be. If yoga can help alleviate some of this burden, it’s worth trying.
Yoga is thought to help back pain by healing injured muscles, speeding up the recovery, strengthening the surrounding muscles, and preventing a re-injury.
Yoga’s main benefit to those with back pain comes from the stretching that the practice provides. Elongating the muscles and relaxing the tension can help start alleviating pain from the first stretch. Yoga also helps strengthen the muscles in the lower and upper back, legs, neck, and all over the body. This strengthening is key to preventing re-injury and to promoting the healing of the primary injury. Add to this the well-known benefits of increased blood flow and controlled breathing and you have a recipe for healing that is sure to provide relief.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a 5,000+ year old Hindu practice that combines breathing exercises, poses (called asanas), and meditation to unite the body and mind. The ancient practice has long been thought to bring physical wellness and mental well-being to those who perform the ritual regularly. Yoga involves manipulating the body into different body-stretching poses while maintaining rhythmic breathing. It is the combination of these two things that is thought to bring about the real benefits. While some stretchers may be tempted to hold their breath while stretching, yoga encourages its practitioners to keep breathing in a controlled way throughout the stretch, which is believed to help with blood flow to all parts of the body. This increased circulation promotes healing by bringing oxygen in and pushing toxins out.
Since its inception, yoga has taken many different forms. There are hundreds of different types of yoga, all aiming to focus on a different concept or key area. Despite the amount of variations, there are three main components that all yoga shares: positioning the body into poses, controlled and rhythmic breathing, and meditation.
Yoga and Back Pain
Yoga is generally an impact-free, easy-on-the-body type of exercise that almost anybody can do (just look at Anna Pesce’s story). Like any other treatment, those patients suffering from should seek a diagnosis from a healthcare professional before starting yoga. It is key to recovery that a patient has a proper diagnosis, treatment plan, and long-term goals set out by a spine specialist. After all, yoga will do very little for back pain if the root cause of the pain is an injury that needs immediate treatment.
Once a patient has been approved to begin yoga, it is best to seek the professional help of a certified yoga instructor, at least at first. Yoga is simple and can be performed at home, but starting out the right way—learning the right poses, breathing, and limitations—will do wonders for future results.
The great thing about yoga for back pain is that the routine can be modified to help different parts of the body and different injuries. Seeking the advice of a certified yoga instructor will help you to learn which poses will most benefit your specific injury and needs.
4 Physical Benefits of Yoga
Practicing yoga, whether injured or not, provides both physical and mental benefits. To maintain focus on using yoga for healing back pain, we’ll discuss the four main physical benefits.
Yoga is an excellent way to stretch the body. Stretching helps to reduce muscle tension, increase the range of movement in the joints, enhance muscular strength and coordination, and improve circulation. Outside of a , there is really nothing better one can do for their body. For people suffering from back pain, stretching provides these benefits directly to the source of the problem by increasing the limberness of the back muscles, elongating the spine, strengthening the surrounding muscles, and increasing blood flow to the area of injury.
Yoga requires that you hold each position for a short period, usually 10 to 60 seconds. Holding the pose is what strengthens the muscles. Improving the strength of the back muscles and the muscles in nearby areas of the body (like the abs and legs) help you to maintain proper posture and carry your own body weight in a way that relieves pressure from the injured area. When the surrounding muscles are strengthened and well-conditioned, the injured areas of the back have less work to do and thus have more opportunity for healing.
Breathing is an essential part of yoga. Breathing deeply, freely, and rhythmically during yoga helps to relax the body and improve blood flow. In the hustle of everyday life, some of us forget about our breathing, never giving the automatic function a second thought. But when we focus on our breathing in a way that ensures long, controlled breaths, the results can be surprising. Practicing yoga helps a patient to focus on this key element of relaxation and healing.
Practicing yoga provides other benefits that are essential to fully healing and relieving back pain. Most people think of healing an injury as something tangible, like surgery. But that fact is, improving the way in which the body is trained to move and hold itself can be essential to the healing process also. For example, yoga helps to train the body for better posture, which can immediately remove some of the pressure on the back. Yoga also helps improve balance, which plays a similar role in reducing the everyday stresses from the injured back. Practicing yoga trains a person to give more thought to these key areas of health. After all, just being aware of what you are doing and how it is affecting your pain can do wonders to provide relief.
Dolman Law Group
Dolman Law Group is a personal injury firm in Clearwater that focuses on total recovery when it comes to helping a client. We believe that recovering from an accident means treating the injuries, holding the negligent parties accountable, managing stress, and finding unique ways to heal the body. Surgeries, doctors, and chiropractors play an important role in recovery, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot find innovative and engaging ways to help in recovery. If you or a loved one has been injured and need someone to turn to, call us today for a free consultation at 727-451-6900.