Ask Dr. Nandi: Can yoga help chronic lower back pain?

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-19 17:36:55-04

I love yoga, I practice yoga and I can’t say enough good things about it. When it comes to back pain, it’s the most common reason why people visit their doctor.

The researchers conducted what’s called a “non-inferiority trial." That’s where new therapies get compared against existing medicine. They found for easing chronic low back pain, that yoga is as effective as physical therapy.  

Patients in this study reported that overall, their pain intensity dropped which then allowed them to be more active. Some were able to stop or reduce the medication they were taking for pain. Yoga is a mind-body practice with gentle stretching and flowing motion. If you’d like to try it, here are my prescriptions:

Partha’s RX:

  1. When looking for a class, find out how demanding it is and if it’s suitable for beginners.   There are also many online videos targeting back pain.  Be sure the teacher is qualified. 
  2. Yoga has many styles to choose from.  To start off, look for gentle yoga classes like Healthy Backs, Yin Yoga or Slow Flow Vinyasa.
  3. Always breathe deeply through the nose in every position. Be sure to hold your body correctly but don’t exceed or push too far beyond your limits. 
  4. Never compare yourself to others.  Everyone has different abilities and you don’t have to do every pose especially if it’s too uncomfortable or painful.

Yoga poses are called Asanas. They can be altered to accommodate what you can or cannot do in terms of strength and experience. Or if you have health conditions like multiple sclerosis, you can practice yoga on a chair.

It’s important to talk to your instructor about any health problems so they can modify the position or warn you against ones that may aggravate your pain.

Yoga is generally safe but do talk to your doctor first if you have a herniated disk, a risk of blood clots, balance problems, severe osteoporosis or pain that radiates down your leg and causes numbness.