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As anyone with chronic low back pain knows, there are times when you feel like there's nothing you can do to really relieve the pain. But a recent study suggests that certain yoga poses may be effective. "We already know that physical therapy works well for back pain, but we wanted to know how it might work with yoga," said Dr. Robert Saper, lead author of the study and associate professor of family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. "We compared specially designed yoga sessions with one-on-one physical therapy sessions. After two weeks, both groups showed the same degree of improvement. They had less pain, they had better function, they had less medication, and they were happy with the results."
At the start of the study, 70 percent of the participants were taking some form of painkiller. After three months, that number had dropped to 50 percent in both groups. "A lot of people with chronic back pain think they need to live with it, but they don't," Saper said. While the yoga classes used in this study have a very specific structure, Sapo believes yoga classes labeled restorative, gentle or therapeutic can be beneficial for people with back pain. These poses can even be done at home. 'Certain positions stretch your lower back a lot,' says Dr. Sapo. They bend your spine backwards, which increases the space between the discs and allows more breathing space around the spinal cord." "They can also strengthen core muscles, which are critical for relieving back pain."
1. Kiddo: Kneel on the floor with knees slightly apart and toes together. Bend forward and sit back with your tailbone toward your feet. Turn your forehead toward the ground and raise your arms above your head or out. If possible, place your forehead on the mat.
2. Locust type: prone, forehead to the ground. Place your hands behind your back, palms up, toes away from your body. Lift your head, upper chest, arms and legs off the floor at the same time. Place your weight on your belly and pelvis, keeping your eyes forward or slightly downward. Hold and then relax as your body slowly returns to the mat.
3. Sphinx: Lie prone with forehead to the ground. Bend your elbows under your shoulders, close to your body, put your arms on the floor and your hands in front of you. Legs pointing back, toes on the mat. Press your arms to the floor and hold your head high. Keep your eyes forward or slightly downward. Hold, then relax, lowering the chest and slowly returning the head to the mat.
4. Bridge pose: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet as close to hips as possible. Make sure your feet are parallel and your knees are directly above your feet. Hands by your sides. Hands down. Press your feet and lift your lower back and pelvis off the floor. Keep your shoulders on the mat and your knees parallel. Hold, then slowly lower your back and pelvis back to the floor.
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