Yoga for Low-Back Pain: Complementary Medicine Journal Article

Simple yoga stretches and exercises can help alleviate one of the highest causes of sick leave, say physiotherapists Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss. Simon Borg-Olivier, MScBAppSc(Physiotherapy), and Bianca Machliss, BScBAppSc(Physiotherapy), are the directors of Yoga Synergy.

These are diagrams from their 2005 article in the Journal of Complementary Medicine. Click on the diagrams to get the full enlarged views, or click on the link at the bottom of the page to view the entire article with the high resolution versions of these sequence sheets.

Yoga Synergy Back Pain Sequence Page 1, By Simon Borg-Olivier & Bianca Machliss

Yoga Synergy Back Pain Sequence Page 1, By Simon Borg-Olivier & Bianca Machliss

Yoga Synergy Back Pain Sequence Page 2, By Simon Borg-Olivier & Bianca Machliss

Yoga Synergy Back Pain Sequence Page 2, By Simon Borg-Olivier & Bianca Machliss

Notes: For many people most of the exercises described in this article are more effective in relieving lower back pain if you do not try to consciously tighten the abdomen by drawing the navel to the spine (or by trying to lift the abdomen off the floor while lying prone on the abdomen) but rather allow the abdomen to naturally firm by pushing slightly outwards (subject to no increase in discomfort) with the ability to still be able to breathe naturally with the diaphragm into the abdomen. To understand the two different main ways of drawing in the abdomen please see our blog on this subject by clicking here .

Spinal movements are the key to to improving circulation and energy levels, as well for improving trunk strength, and also for the prevention and relief of back pain. You can see the spinal movements sequence shown in the attached sequence sheets by clicking here  (first 2min 45 sec only). You can view a simpler spinal movements sequence by clicking here . This simpler sequence has proven to be the quickest, safest most effective therapy for lower back pain that we have ever designed.

Spinal Traction (figure 1): The most effective single posture that aids in the relief of lower back pain is the ‘standing active self-traction posture’ (figure 1 in the attached sequence sheets). To get the maximum benefit of self-traction you have to feel completely relaxed. The ability to breathe comfortably into the abdomen without feeling any tension is a sign that you are sufficiently relaxed that the spine is free to move and allow self-traction in a way that can release trapped nerves, relieve compressed discs and increase circulation through the trunk. It is also important to note that this is an active movement that is not only lengthening the trunk but also strengthening the core muscles of the spine. This is important because for many people passive stretching of the spine can actually increase pain while active lengthening of muscles of spine can increase strength without tension, length without stretching and can increase blood flow and improve circulation without needing to increase heart rate.

As a general rule for most normal people, who are prone to back pain the following instructions are the best way of doing backbends and forward bends.

These instructions are for backward-bending (spinal extension) and forward bending (spinal flexion) relative to positions such as standing erect.

Clinical research suggests that these instructions give the best results for improved circulation and energy levels, as well for trunk strength, and also for the prevention and relief of back pain.

Forward Bending (Spinal Flexion) (figure 2): Move the navel (and the L4-L5 region of the spine) forward and downwards.

Backward Bending (Spinal Extension) (figure 3): Move the navel (and the L4-L5 region of the spine) forward and upwards in order to lengthen the front of the body rather than shorten the back.

Sideways Bending to right side (Spinal lateral flexion to right) (figure 4): Move the navel (and the L4-L5 region of the spine) to the left side and upwards in order to lengthen the left side of the body rather than shorten the right side.

Sideways Bending to left side (Spinal lateral flexion to left): Move the navel (and the L4-L5 region of the spine) to the right side and upwards in order to lengthen the right side of the body rather than shorten the left side.

Twisting (Spinal axial rotation) (figure 5): Twist the spine by moving the navel (and the L4-L5 region of the spine) in the direction of the twist and then try to move each vertebra one at a time (or each region of the spine one at a time) up the spine. Try to move the spine separately from the hip.

Ideally with both bending forward and bending backwards movements (spinal flexion and extension) the front of the abdomen will appear to have been become firm with activation of the Rectus abdominis but the sides should remain relaxed especially near the ribs. This indicates that none of the abdominal obliques have become active and there is no inhibition of the diaphragm, which is what tends to happen if you simply draw the navel to the spine using the muscles of forced abdominal exhalation.

You can apply the instructions for forward bending in the attached sequence sheets for the spinal forward bend (2), the lunging front groin stretch (6b), the supine half sit-up postures (10 & 12), and the seated forward bend (16).

You can apply the instructions for backward bending in the attached sequence sheets for the spinal backward bend (3),  the standing hamstring stretch (7b), the prone spinal extension cobra/locust postures (8 & 9), and the bridge pose (14).

Click here to view the full article from the Journal of Complementary Medicine, 2005 by  Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss – Yoga for Low-Back Pain

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