May 05 2017

Is Yoga Good for Lower Back Pain?


Yoga is a combination of different disciplines and involves not only physical exercise to strengthen the body but mental and spiritual exercises as well. This method aims to teach you control over your body and mind to produce therapeutic and holistic effects.

There are many benefits to yoga. For one, it can help ease chronic back pain and promote a healthy spine. Two, it can help reduce sciatica symptoms. Three, while yoga can help improve back conditions, it also produces other beneficial effects.

Yoga improves muscle flexibility, strength, as well as tone. Through relaxation techniques incorporated in the exercises, it helps improve pulmonary and cardiovascular health. Yoga also has the ability to improve metabolism and, at the same time, reduce weight.

If you’re suffering from back pain and sciatica, yoga can definitely improve your condition and promote a healthy spine. However, there are some things you need to know first before you join a yoga class.


The Good and Bad of Yoga

Yoga works wonders for people with mild to moderate back pain and is very effective for back muscle soreness and stiffness. The yoga exercises can also improve chronic back pain and sciatica symptoms by improving blood flow to the area and improving posture.

Unfortunately though, yoga also has its limitations. The exercises are not for someone who has severe back pain, back injuries, and sciatica symptoms. Some yoga poses are even contraindicated in patients with medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension, hypotension, knee injury, neck injury, and shoulder injury.


Simple Yoga Exercises for Back Pain and Sciatica

Listed below are some simple and easy yoga exercises that can give you a healthy spine and improve back pain and sciatica:

  • Downward-Facing Dog for Back Pain

    A classic yoga exercise, the aim of this pose is to stretch the back muscles, strengthen your back extensor muscles, and improve spine posture.



    With your hands and knees on the floor, make sure that you align your knees directly with your hip joint and your hands slight ahead of your shoulders. Spread your fingers and palm since they will bear your weight when you push up.

    Exhale gently as you straighten your knee and lift your buttocks to the ceiling. You can also stretch your hamstrings gently with this pose by pushing your heel against the floor, but don’t lock your knee though.

    Hold the yoga position for about ten breaths then release and go back to the original position. Do the downward-facing dog five times.

  • Child’s Pose for Back Pain

    This is a relatively easy pose as it gently stretches your back and relaxes the tight muscles.

    Start on all fours and then stretch your arms out straight. Keeping your arms outstretched, slowly sit back till you feel your buttocks softly touch your heels. Do not do a full sit though, just enough that your buttocks is touching your heels.



    Now hold this yoga pose for about ten breaths before you slowly release your body and go back to the original position. You can repeat this yoga exercise as many as you can tolerate. This gentle exercise can soothe your back muscles and is perfect after a long day of work.

  • Cobra Pose for Sciatica

    The cobra pose is an easy yoga exercise that extends the spine. The rationale behind this exercise is that, if you centralize the pain to your lower back, you will move it away from your lower extremities.

    To do this exercise, you need to lie on your stomach with your legs stretched out. Your ankles should be extended so that the tops touch the floor; your hands should be under your shoulders and flat against the floor, and your elbows should be held close against your sides.



    Inhale gently and then slowly lift your head off the mat followed by your chest. Don’t lift your lower ribs though; keep it touching the floor. Now, gently straighten your arms, press your shoulder blades together, and push your thighs against the floor.

    Hold the cobra position for about ten breaths and then slowly release your breath and body as you go back to the starting position. Do this yoga pose five times.

  • Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe for Sciatica

    This yoga position stretches the back and promotes a healthy spine. It also helps stretch tight hamstrings. If you have neck problems though, you can place a firm pillow or a folded blanket under your head for support.

    Lie flat on your back and extend your legs. Now, gently flex your left knee, keeping your left foot pressed firmly to the floor. Slowly lift your left leg straight up, but make sure that your lower back and pelvis are pressing the floor.

    Hold your left leg up for about five breaths before gently releasing the leg and lowering it down. Repeat the process for your right leg.



    Of note, you can also hold your thigh in place to support the leg or use a strap placed on the arch of your foot and pull its end toward you.


Yoga Exercises to Avoid If You Have Back Pain and Sciatica

While the simple yoga exercises mentioned above can help reduce back pain and sciatica and promote a healthy spine, there are some yoga poses, too, that you need to avoid.

  • The Bow Pose

    The bow pose is contraindicated in patients with severe neck and back injury since it involves curving your neck and back like an archer’s bow. This pose strains your neck and back muscles as you hold it in place.



  • The Locust Position

    If you have headaches and serious back injury, you should avoid the locust position. For this position, you will need to lie prone and lift your upper body and legs straight up with your arms and shoulders also stretched out behind you. People with serious back injury will find this position difficult to do, and it could even worsen the pain since you need to hold the position for about 30 seconds.




Is Yoga for Me?

Yoga may be good for back pain and sciatica and it can help you have a healthy spine, but before you join a yoga class for your back pain and sciatica, we recommend that you first see your back specialist.

He knows your medical condition better and can help you determine which yoga exercises will work for you and which yoga poses will exacerbate your pain. He can even work with your yoga instructor to create a good plan perfect for your back pain and sciatica.


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Douglas Won, M.D.

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The first in Texas to perform micro-endoscopic laser spine surgery with an incision as small as 3 mm, Dr. Won advises multiple international spine technology companies and has helped design many groundbreaking tools for the minimally invasive spine surgery industry.

Dr. Won also innovated the Pain Mapping procedures, this diagnostic study helps to pin point the pain generator so that we can provide the least invasive spine procedures, LuMINI.

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