I have a love hate relationship with Yoga. I totally respect the healing power yoga has to all kinds of musculoskeletal ailments and what it has done for so many people. BUT and that’s a big but. Just like any style or form of physical fitness, if done wrong it can really do some damage. Just because you signed up for your neighborhood yoga class or are watching someone’s YouTube channel doesn’t mean your on your way to a healthier body.
This article is not to deter you from doing Yoga. I want you to do it! The only beef I have is when someone who is dealing with serious back pain thinks that just doing Yoga will help with their pain. That’s not the case and in some situations doing Yoga WILL make it worse. One thing that i had to learn the hard way is back pain rehab should NEVER be painful. The goal is to find out the causes of the pain nd treat them at their core. Bending, twisting and pulling through back stiffness or inflammation is the worst advice you could ever get.
What I want to do in this article is shed some light on some specific poses that if your dealing with any kind of lower back pain you need to stay away from.
Again, these poses may be perfectly fine for someone who is experienced in Yoga or not currently dealing with any kind of back pain. When dealing with low back disorders greater spine mobility has been associated with low back trouble in some cases (e.g., Biering-Soreensen. 1984. ) When it comes to simply trying to stretch the back and increase flexibility, more often then not this can lead to the stretch reflex diminishing as well as muscle spasms (e.g., Solomonow. 2002)
These poses have all been done by yours truly. This information is coming from both a research based and personal experimentation over a couple years working through my own back pain.
Standing Forward Bend: This was always the first or second pose within a series of “Yoga for Back Pain” videos that I would watch. I never understood why my back would be even worse the next day after including these in my routine. When doing these more often then not your legs are straight which basically locks your pelvis in place. Because your hip is unable to move forward all the pulling tension is then focused on the lower back. While doing these you may experience relief for a short period after but the micro strains your lower back undergoes is terrible for something that is already inflamed to begin with. You can slightly decrease the strain on the back by bending the knees but its still putting a lot of force through the lower back and until your pain is under control you don’t want to do anything that can make things worse.
The Camel Pose: Not bad, but still a really risky move for someone who is dealing with some acute or chronic back pain. One things I will say about this exercise is the majority of basic disc herniations react well to the Cobra pose which you can do on a very mild level. In this position the lower body really doesn’t have anywhere to go so as you bend back your placing a lot of compression loads on the lower back region. If your dealing with a ruptured or even any herniations I would start with the cobra pose and see if doing that even brings relief to your back AFTER you get up from holding the pose. If it doesn’t bring any lasting relief this exercise should be taken out 100% until you can handle the most basic level of the Cobra pose.
The Triangle Pose: This move gets a bad rap because of the twisting nature at the sacrum. Most of us sit for more parts of our day then not and due to built up tension from that, these moves can often be more painful for those dealing with lower back issues then not. The lower back is one of the most common areas where pain originates from so doing any twisting or flexion based compression to this area should be out of the question. Once your core has been developed properly and you have progressed along the many levels of beginner to advance core training something like this can be attempted with close attention to control and pain/body awareness.
Downward Dog: This is another exercises that shouldn’t be done if your dealing with low back pain. In theory this pose is decent for what your targeting but the beginner will most likely lock the legs and and push the weight into the hips which will create a similar compression and tension mechanism that you get with the Standing Forward Bend. If your looking to stretch the calves and hammies there are other more unloaded, neutral spine versions that put almost no pressure on the lower back.
These are my top 4 poses to stay away from until you can get your back pain under control. Remember, stick to building stiffness and endurance in the core before attempting yoga to help “relieve back pain”.
Thanks for reading guys!
What is your favorite Yoga pose that seems to bring you lasting relief after doing it? Leave your response in the comments below!