Yoga for Your Back
If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.
ARDMAN: When choosing a type of yoga if you have back pain, it's
important to tell your teacher that you have back pain, and discuss it
thoroughly to make sure your teacher understands what it is so that you know
what you have to avoid.
Also, when choosing a yoga teacher, it's a good idea to make sure that
he/she practices yoga seriously at home and has a personal practice. That
person will be more able to be responsive to your needs.
MODERATOR: In your book you talk about nine common causes of back
pain. Could you please describe them?
1. Musculoskeletal pain, which is basically when muscles, joints or
ligaments hurt, is the most common cause of back pain. (ARDMAN: That
includes muscle spasm.)
2. Nerve pain from a herniated disk in the lumbar spine.
(ARDMAN: That's also called a pinched nerve root or slipped disk.)
3. Arthritis, which is a progressive condition of the joint. It can be any
joint along the spine. There are five lumbar vertebrae with three real
connections between bones at each level, which means 15 possible places where
this can occur.
4. Sacroiliac arrangement, which is a single joint on each side of the
5. Pregnancy, where up to 70% of women who are pregnant have back pain. It's a
self-curing condition like muscle spasm, but can be very uncomfortable. There
is a lot of weight in front of you, your blood volume in the spinal cord itself
can compromise it, and your ligaments are loosened from a hormone from the
placenta. On top of all this, there's no comfortable way to sleep.
6. Spinal stenosis, where the openings in the spine are narrow. The opening
from your brain down the spin is so narrow that the nerves get irritated.
7. Piriformis syndrome, where the sciatic nerve gets compressed by a muscle in
8. Being overweight. We have a chapter on weight control. Being overweight
makes back pain much worse.
9. After back surgery, usually the pain you went in for is gone, but you have
new pain from the surgery. It will go away, but there are yoga exercises you
can do to help the pain with weight, balance and strength.
My back pain seems to come from stress.
MEMBER QUESTION: My back pain seems to come from stress. Help!
FISHMAN: Stress is a common cause of lower back pain, and work by Dr.
John Sarno has pioneered a yoga-like method that is very successful by reducing
anger and frustration. His books are out there and he teaches courses in New
York. Yoga is an alternative method with no proven studies that I've seen
regarding back pain, but many proven studies of reducing physiological
correlates of stress, such as blood pressure and heart rate.