Back pain is extremely common and the causes can be difficult to diagnose. Some major factors in today’s society include an increased obesity level in the Western world and the impact of the digital age, with people hunching over their desks at work or at home on their computer or smartphone. The good news is, there are ways to decrease and rid yourself of chronic or temporary back pain, by improving your posture and strengthening your back. And yoga is one of the best tools around to tackle the problem…
Causes Of Back Pain
There are a number of potential causes of back pain, and it is, unfortunately, a common issue. The back is a complex structure, made of bones, muscles, nerves and joints, which can make it difficult to pinpoint specific causes. Back pain may be a symptom of a muscle or ligament strain, which can be caused by repeated heavy lifting or a sudden movement that jolts a muscle or ligament in a way it shouldn’t. It might be caused by bending over for long periods, lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling heavy items, sporting injuries from overusing muscles, or sitting hunched over a desk or computer all day.
There are certain factors that can make some people more at risk than others of chronic back pain. Being overweight can put pressure on the spine, which can cause back pain, especially if you don’t have a strong core or strong back muscles to support the weight. Smoking may also cause problems if it leads to tissue damage, linked to an unhealthier lifestyle than the average non-smoker. The extra weight of carrying a baby around while pregnant places additional strain on the back, which can also cause back pain. Often this subsides after childbirth, but it can sometimes linger as a chronic problem in the long-term. Even being stressed or depressed can cause back pain, although it is not entirely understood scientifically how the two are related. The theory is that psychological and emotional factors cause some sort of physical change in the body that results in back pain.
Causes Of Lower Back Pain
The lower back is particularly susceptible to weakness, pain and injuries. Mechanically speaking, this area is subjected to a lot of stress and strain, because it holds the weight of the upper body. The lower back is he bottom part of your spine, which is made up of more than 30 bones called vertebrae. These little bones are stacked on top of each other, separated with a disc between each bone, which is a spongy piece of cartilage. This acts as a shock absorber to stop the vertebrae from grinding on top of each other. However, these protective ‘sponges’ can wear away with age, which leads to degenerative disc disease. They can also tear and weaken, which can lead to a ‘slipped disc’ or ‘ruptured disc’. In this case, the center of the disc may bulge, which can cause it to press on sensitive nerves that are connected to the brain, resulting in excruciating pain. In some cases, a slipped disc in the lower back can put pressure on nerves that run down the spinal column, causing pain all the way down the buttocks and leg, which is called sciatica.
There are a number of potential causes of lower back pain, including discs tearing, vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis; spinal stenosis, which is usually caused by bone spurs as a result of osteoporosis; and scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In some cases, lower back pain can be caused by diabetes or a pinched nerve. The cause of lower back pain can be difficult to diagnose for doctors, and it can be genetic.
How Posture Effects Back Pain
Maintaining an accurate, healthy posture helps your spine stay strong and stable. When you slouch or sit hunched over your desk at work, the muscles and ligaments in your back have to strain to keep you balanced, which can lead to back pain, and sometimes chronic back pain. Your back should have three natural, subtle curves – an inward or forward curve at the neck; an outward or backward curve around the upper back; and an inward curve around the lower back.
If you experience pain in your back, it could be the result of poor posture, and might be easily fixed if you spend some time training your body to stand and sit in a healthier position.
Benefits Of Yoga For Back Pain
If you already suffer from back pain or a back injury, be sure to consult your doctor before practicing any yoga or exercise, whether at home or at a studio or fitness center.
Yoga can be extremely beneficial to people suffering from back pain or a weak back because it strengthens muscles in the back and core that protect and support the spine. It also improves posture, which takes pressure off the spine. If you already suffer from back pain, there are certain poses that are particularly beneficial in helping ease the pain, as well as strengthening the back and core muscles, and improving posture, to prevent or minimize the risk of future pain or injuries…
This is a good one to start with because it slowly and gently warms up and stretches the back and abs, loosening any tightness in the muscles.
Start in tabletop position on your mat. If your knees are sensitive, you can put a blanket or extra mat underneath them. Make sure your knees are directly underneath your hips, and hip-distant apart, and your hands are directly underneath your shoulders, shoulder-distance apart.
On an inhale, drop the belly down, arching the back and lifting your tailbone towards the sky. If you feel comfortable and balanced, you can also raise your face towards the sky, looking upwards to deepen the stretch. On an exhale, round the back, dropping the head and tailbone towards the ground. Repeat with your own breath for at least 5 breaths.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
This pose decompresses the spine, so it is a beneficial one to practice if you have a tight back. Have a yoga block in front of you, in case you need it. Start standing up with your legs wide in an upside-down ‘V’ shape, toes very slightly turned in towards each other, heels turned slightly out. Place your hands on your hips and lift your collarbone and chest upwards to lengthen your torso on an inhale. As you exhale, slowly fold forward, keeping your core strong and engaged, and your back straight. Once you are halfway down, release your hands from your hips and place them either on the firm block in front of you, or directly onto the mat. Keep your core and back strong and on each exhale, try to fold a little deeper, moving the crown of your head towards the ground.
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