Can Yoga Help With My Pain?

November 8, 2018

Yoga is a type of exercise for both mind and body that combines breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. People have been doing yoga for thousands of years, seeing the many benefits of a practice that places great emphasis on mental fitness as well as physical fitness.

It’s this combination of mental and physical restoration that can be very helpful to those who suffer from chronic pain. While surgery, pain medication, physical therapy, and other treatments may play a big part in your pain management, restorative yoga can be an added option to help control chronic pain.

Yoga can be particularly good for those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, lower back pain, and many other types of chronic pain conditions. A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 313 people with chronic low back pain, a weekly yoga class increased mobility significantly. Another study published around the same time found that yoga was comparable to standard exercise therapy in relieving chronic low back pain.

Relaxation, a big component of restorative yoga, has been shown to be healing for chronic pain. It can turn off the stress response and directs the body’s energy to growth, repair, immune function, digestion, and other self-nurturing processes. Practicing yoga can also play a big part in improving mood and psychosocial well-being, two huge components when you are suffering with chronic pain.

Yoga sessions usually begin with breathing exercises to relax the body and help free the mind of worries and distractions. Breathing deeply through the nose is a vital component of yoga. Sessions then move through a series of seated, standing, and yoga postures, known as asanas. Some asanas are held for a few seconds to a few minutes.

Each pose is meant to be held for longer than a few breaths. You can stay in a restorative pose for 10 minutes or even longer. The stillness allows the body to drop even the deepest layers of tension. Restorative poses also often make use of props, such as a wall, chair, couch, pillow, or blocks to help support your body. The right support in a pose will make it feel effortless, which allows your body to fully let go or tension and stress.

When practicing yoga for restoration and relief from pain, you shouldn’t focus on feeling strong sensations of stretch or strength the way you might in a more active yoga pose. Stretching and strengthening can be healthy, but they can be challenging for your body. Restorative yoga is all about letting go of anything that will cause tension or stress.

Although the poses may look simple — as though you aren’t really doing anything — you are actually resting the body while engaging the mind. The breathing elements of each pose make restorative yoga an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions.

Yoga sessions in a class environment typically last from 45 to 90 minutes. If a class setting is not right for you, there are many options for at home practice. Podcasts, DVDs, and online classes are widely available in varying lengths. A practice of just 10 to 20 minutes at home a few times a week can have significant benefits.

Before starting with any yoga practice, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor. Remember to never push your body farther than it wants to go, and stop if your pain worsens during or after your yoga practice.

Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop for pain management with a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs. Southside Pain Specialists follows the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.