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Low Back Pain – The Do’s and Don’ts

Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints of Americans. The Mayo Clinic states that “most people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.” Lower back pain affects sedentary people as well as highly-trained athletes. Even those with a regular yoga practice may suffer from lower back pain!

Recently, the American College of Physicians recommended that those suffering from chronic lower back pain begin to address the issue with noninvasive and nonpharmacologic treatment before surgery is considered.

Basically, use surgery and pain pills as a last resort!

The recommendation states “for patients with chronic lower back pain, clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacologic treatment with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation.”

A well-developed yoga class sequenced by an experienced yoga therapist can help you cope with and perhaps even overcome your lower back pain. Learn 5 exercises for everyone with lower back pain!

However, a daily yoga class is typically only 1-hour of your day. What you do during the other 23-hours of your day will have an even bigger impact on your lower back pain.

Some Do’s and Don’ts for overcoming your lower back pain include:

DO…

…Identify and remove the triggers for your lower back pain

Knowing what the triggers for your pain are and making efforts to remove them from your daily activities can dramatically reduce your pain. Start a journal and record your basic daily activities, along with the pain level associated with the activity.

Examples:

  • How does your back feel when you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed?
  • How does your back feel after standing for a short period of time, such as preparing your breakfast?
  • Does your back hurt when you walk your dog?
  • Does your back hurt more after you exercise? (Note the types of exercises you have done, and consider working with a trainer to ensure you are using proper technique.)
  • Does your back hurt more after sitting all day?

Identifying and making efforts to eliminate the cause of your lower back pain is the MOST important activity you can begin towards living a life that is more pain free.

Many times, it is hard to identify ways to eliminate the cause of your pain. Example; you can’t quit your job if sitting at work causes your lower back pain to worsen. However, there are ways to improve your posture and sitting habits so you reduce your pain while staying employed. 😉

…Practice healthier standing and seated postures

Your everyday posture can affect your lower back pain. If you typically stand with slumped shoulders, you’re placing more stress on your lower back. If you regularly walk with your feet turned out to the sides, you’re placing more stress on your knees, hips and lower back. Proper posture is the most important aspect of your lower back health. Get a posture check from an IAYT certified yoga therapist or physical therapist. Learn 5 exercises to help improve your posture and lower back pain.

…Build stability over flexibility

Yoga sequences frequently focus more on lengthening than strengthening. Lengthening can feel really good in the moment. However, long-term stretching does not address weaknesses in the body. This is one reason why many yoga instructors suffer from chronic daily pain.

Focusing on exercises for stability builds muscular endurance. Put more focus on bracing your front and back core in your yoga routine, and take these exercises with you throughout the day. Learn 5 exercises to build stability in your spine.

DON’T…

…Do any forward folds or flexion in the first hour of waking.

Sometimes we are given the advice to stretch first thing in the morning when we get out of bed. This is a TERRIBLE recommendation for you if you suffer from lower back pain!

Here’s why – As we sleep, the intervertebral discs re-hydrate and expand. This is why you may actually be taller in the morning than you are at the end of the day. Your intervertebral discs are squishier and more pliable in the morning; this makes them subject to higher stresses in the morning (which means… there’s more room for failure).

The intervertebral discs generally lose 90% of their fluid within the first hour of waking. Therefore, avoiding forward bending within the first hour is recommended. You can still complete a yoga routine in the morning, as long as you take some time to warm-up your spine before you get started. Do these 5 exercises every morning to reduce your lower back pain, regardless of the time of day.

…Round up from a standing forward fold with straight legs

Keeping your legs straight when rolling up to a seated position can compress the discs of the anterior spine while aggravating back pain. Just imagine lifting a box by rolling up to standing.  This movement would undoubtedly cause lower back pain strain and discomfort for even the healthiest lower back. So, ask yourself…why would you lift your head-which weighs about 7 pounds-by rolling up? A better bet is to use the power of your legs to push yourself away from the ground, similar to how you would lift a box.

Remember, overcoming your lower back pain takes time, patience and dedication. It’s suggested that you practice noninvasive treatments for at least 3-6 months before seeking surgical or pharmacological treatments.

There’s no one-size-fits-all yoga practice for reducing your lower back pain. No one can heal your pain with a once-a-week 1-hour yoga practice. Bringing more awareness into your daily activities and your yoga practice will help you reduce your lower back pain, as long as you are willing to give it time and practice.