- 7 Best Yoga Poses to Soothe Your Lower Back Pain
- How Yoga Helps the Back
- Physical Benefits of Yoga Exercises
- Mental Benefits of Yoga Exercises
- Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain
- These 6 Beginner-Friendly Yoga Poses Will Ease Your Back Pain
- Find the Right Treatment for You
- How Yoga Can Help Back Pain
- 6 Yoga Poses for Back Pain
- Yoga Poses for Back Pain: The Takeaway
- 5 Yoga Poses to Ease Lower Back Pain
- 1. Supine Twist
- 2. Sphinx Pose
- 3. Thread the Needle Pose
- 4. Cat and Cow Pose
- 5. Downward Facing Dog
- 6 Yoga Poses to Beat Back Pain ASAP
- Lower Back Pain Symptoms and Diagnosis
- Back Pain Symptoms from a Sprain or Strain
- Chronic Back Pain Symptoms
- Causes of Lower Back Pain When Sitting, Standing, and Walking
- Spinal Anatomy — Lower Back Pain
- 3 Lower Back Pain Provoking Conditions
- Lower Back “Pain Generator” Important to Treatment Selection
- Question: I get lower back pain when I stand for more than about 10 minutes. If I sit down, it tends to feel better. Is there anything that I can do besides sitting down to help my back?
- Dead Bear
- If you know someone who is struggling with lower back pain or sciatica right now,
- Call IFAST Physical Therapy at 317-578-0998 or email to get a copy of The IFAST PT Sciatica Solution.
- Call IFAST Physical Therapy at 317-578-0998 or email for a FREE Injury Consultation and get all your questions answered. There is no obligation.
- Is Your Bad Back Bringing You Down? Practice These 12 Yoga Poses for Back Pain for Real Relief
- Here Are 12 Yoga Poses for Back Pain to Relieve Tension and Make Your Back Feel Better:
- Feel Better With These Yoga Poses for Back Pain
- 3 Beginner Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain Relief
- Sphinx pose
- Cat/cow pose
- Modified down dog pose
- Learn more:
- The Best Yoga Poses for Every Type of Back Pain
- Yoga Poses for Upper Back Pain
- Yoga Poses for Mid Back Pain
- Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
7 Best Yoga Poses to Soothe Your Lower Back Pain
Achy back? Give yoga a go. Numerous studies have shown the power of the ancient practice, which emphasizes stretching, strength, and flexibility, to relieve back soreness and improve function.
According to research published in July 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga may even help reduce the need for pain medication. At the start of the three-month study, in which one group was assigned to physical therapy for their back pain, a second to yoga, and a third to reading about pain management strategies, 70 percent of the subjects were taking medication. By the end, however, while the number of people taking medication in the reading group stayed the same, only 50 percent of the yoga and physical therapy subjects were still taking it.
While yoga isn’t a good idea if you have severe pain, those with occasional soreness or chronic aches may greatly benefit from certain postures that can help lengthen your spine, stretch and strengthen your muscles, and return your back to its proper alignment, says Jennifer Bayliss, a fitness expert in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Yoga’s focus on balance and steadiness encourages your body to develop defenses against the causes of back pain, which include weak abdominal and pelvic muscles, as well lack of flexibility in the hips. When you strengthen these muscles, you improve your posture, which reduces the load on your back, and thus reduces the aches you feel. In addition, stretching can increase flexibility by increasing blood flow to tight muscles.
Researchers are also starting to discover how yoga’s effects on the brain may contribute to decreased pain. In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and published in May 2015 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, scientists found that there were significant differences between the brains of those with chronic pain and the brains of regular yoga practitioners. Those with chronic pain had less of the kind of brain tissue in the regions that help us tolerate pain, but those who did yoga had more — which suggests that yoga may be not just physically but neurologically protective.
It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen, especially if you’re prone to pain. Once you get the green light, try these seven soothing poses for back pain. You can do these poses in any order. Gradually increase the intensity by holding them for longer amounts of time. And you might even reap the other health perks of yoga, which include lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, improved sleep, and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How Yoga Helps the Back
The most commonly practiced form of yoga is Hatha yoga. A physical form, Hatha yoga incorporates a series of poses called Asanas, while relying on a breathing technique, referred to as Pranayama. By adopting very basic and sometimes very complex body postures and breathing techniques, the goal of yoga is to provide the practitioner a number of physical and mental benefits.
Physical Benefits of Yoga Exercises
Strengthening from holding yoga positions. Yoga helps increase strength in very specific muscles and muscle groups. Holding positions in yoga is not intended to be uncomfortable. However, it does require concentration and specific use of muscles throughout the body. Muscle strength improves by remaining in these yoga positions and incorporating various movements.
Many of the postures in yoga gently strengthen the muscles in the back, as well as the abdominal muscles. Back and abdominal muscles are essential components of the muscular network of the spine, helping the body maintain proper upright posture and movement. When these muscles are well conditioned, back pain can be greatly reduced or avoided.
- See Back Strengthening Exercises
Stretching and relaxation from yoga. Yoga incorporates stretching and relaxation, which reduces tension in stress-carrying muscles. Yoga requires that the individual hold gentle poses anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds. Within the pose, certain muscles flex, while others stretch, promoting relaxation and flexibility in muscles and joints.
- See Stretching for Back Pain Relief
- See how relaxation exercises are important to prepare for back surgery
Posture, balance, and body alignment through yoga. The yoga poses are meant to train the body to be healthy and supple. Consistent practice and application will result in improved posture, and an increased sense of balance, with head, shoulders and pelvis in proper alignment. Additionally, unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga helps stretch and strengthens both sides of the body equally.
Proper body alignment and good posture, which helps maintain the natural curvature of the spine, is an important part of reducing or avoiding lower back pain.
- Awareness of the body through yoga increases with practice. In theory, specific positioning and repositioning not only limbers the body, but also trains people to understand the limitations of their body. An increased awareness acts as a preventative measure, in that the individual will know what types of motions should and should not be avoided.
For people with lower back pain, stretching is very important. For example, stretching the hamstring muscles (in the back of the thigh) helps expand the motion in the pelvis, decreasing stress across the lower back. In addition, stretching with yoga increases blood flow, allowing nutrients to flow in, toxins to flow out, and overall nourishment of the muscles and soft tissues in the lower back.
Breathing is considered very important during the yoga poses. While holding a position, the tendency is to hold the breath as well. Instead, the intention is to have a deep, free, and rhythmic breath through the nose on both the inhale and the exhale. The quality of the breath in many ways determines the quality of the yoga practice. This will emphasize a relaxed body and encourage strong circulation.
In This Article:
- Healing Benefits of Yoga
- How Yoga Helps the Back
- Yoga Poses
- Video: Why is Exercise Important for Lower Back Pain?
Mental Benefits of Yoga Exercises
Engaging in Hatha yoga affords the practitioner with a mental state of mind that is ready for meditation, which in turn reduces stress and enhances mood. These mental benefits play an important role in the overall healing benefits of yoga.
There are several theories as to why a mental state of mind may affect those suffering from back pain.
- Many believe that suffering from back pain increases because of perception. Negative psychological and emotional factors may not necessarily change the physiology of the back, but may tend to magnify a problem that already exists. Thus, reducing the perception of the pain (such as through meditation) can reduce the overall feeling of back pain.
- Others take the role of mental factors one step further. They believe that psychological and emotional factors are the primary influence in the sensation of pain and can physically alter the body. For various reasons, high stress and negative emotions may actually cause back pain. This will in turn create negative psychological and emotional feelings, perpetuating the cycle.
- Also see Stress-Related Back Pain
In theory, yoga helps people concentrate their energy on breathing and maintaining posture. The methodical breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain and sets a rhythm within the body and mind. This action coupled with the poses and sometimes meditation is said to dissipate stress and anxiety, therefore, relieving back pain caused by psychological and emotional factors.
Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain
At a Glance
- Researchers found that yoga was as effective as standard physical therapy for treating moderate to severe chronic low back pain in people in underserved communities.
- The results suggest yoga may be useful as a treatment option for people with chronic low back pain.
A carefully adapted set of yoga poses, practiced under the guidance of a well-trained instructor, may help reduce chronic low back pain and improve function. Moodboard/Thinkstock
Low back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp sensation that leaves you incapacitated. The pain can begin abruptly as a result of an accident or lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time due to age-related changes of the spine. For many people, low back pain persists longer than 3 months (chronic pain). For about 20%, chronic low back pain persists for more than one year.
Recent studies in people with mild to moderate chronic low back pain suggest that a carefully adapted set of yoga postures may help reduce pain and improve the ability to walk and move. Yoga stems from ancient Indian philosophy. As practiced today, it typically combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Most studies of yoga have been done with people from middle-class, white backgrounds. However, people who are from economically disadvantaged communities are disproportionally affected by chronic low back pain.
To study whether yoga helps alleviate pain and improve movement for people from underserved communities, a team led by Dr. Robert Saper at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center studied 320 predominantly low-income, racially diverse adults with moderate to severe chronic low back pain. The researchers carried out a noninferiority trial, which is designed to assess whether a new treatment (yoga) is as effective as a current treatment (physical therapy). The study was funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Results were published online on June 20, 2017, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The participants were randomly divided into three treatment groups. One group received 12 weekly yoga classes designed specifically for people with chronic back pain; one received 15 physical therapy visits over 12 weeks; and one was given an educational book and newsletters about self-care for chronic low back pain. The researchers then continued to track the participants for an additional 40-week maintenance phase. During this phase, people in the yoga and physical therapy groups were randomly assigned to either continue to practice at home or with a professional—at yoga classes or physical therapy sessions.
The researchers found that all three groups reported improvement in physical function and pain reduction. However, people in the yoga and physical therapy treatment groups were significantly more likely than those in the education-only group to stop taking pain relievers after one year. These findings suggest that a structured yoga program may be a reasonable alternative to physical therapy for people with chronic low back pain.
“There are now a number of studies, including ours, that show that yoga is effective for chronic low back pain, but until ours those studies included mostly white and middle-class individuals,” Saper explains. “Chronic low back pain disproportionately impacts those who are economically disadvantaged. Therefore, we feel that it was important to test whether the yoga would be received well by an underserved population as well as being effective.”
—by Tianna Hicklin, Ph.D.
These 6 Beginner-Friendly Yoga Poses Will Ease Your Back Pain
Back pain is very common and can stem from a variety of causes. While some are relatively simple (such as a muscle strain from an overzealous workout or even excessive sitting), others can be quite complex (such as a compressed nerve caused by a herniated disc, spinal narrowing, or vertebral slippage).
The bottom line is that, regardless of the underlying cause, your back hurts. And, when the pain flairs, it’s understandable that you want to find relief – fast. The good news is that the majority of people do not need surgery to address occasional or chronic back pain.
Find the Right Treatment for You
With the wide variety of effective, non-surgical treatments available, it’s important to keep in mind that what works for one person could be completely ineffective for another – and can sometimes even do more harm than good.
Oftentimes, a physician-approved fitness program is a key component of a back pain treatment plan. Targeted exercises can strengthen the back muscles, enhance flexibility, and promote relief. For these purposes, one option that is increasingly gaining acceptance within the medical community is yoga.
Yoga can be an instrumental tool in helping to ease back pain. There are many yoga poses for back pain out there that can assist in alleviating and soothing even the worst of pains.
How Yoga Can Help Back Pain
While not usually considered a main form of treatment for back-related issues, yoga is believed by many (including the experts at Laser Spine Institute) to be beneficial as a complementary therapy.
By seeking to create a sense of balance between the body, mind, and spirit, yoga aims to stimulate and amplify the body’s natural mending response. Its therapeutic effects can extend to virtually any ailment, and many people have found it to be helpful for alleviating back pain.
After you’ve received a go-ahead from a physician, one option worth exploring is restorative yoga – a simplified form of yoga created specifically for stress reduction and injury rehabilitation. Restorative yoga is particularly well-suited for individuals with back pain because it does not involve any complex or intimidating physical poses.
Instead, gentle movements and simple yoga poses for back pain are used to ease the body into comfortable positions, encourage relaxation, and ultimately provide lasting back pain relief.
6 Yoga Poses for Back Pain
To get started, here are six basic restorative yoga poses to help relieve your back pain:
1. Prone Leg Extensions
You can perform this sequence lying on your stomach (prone) on the floor. While keeping your pelvis, legs, and feet on the floor, lift your chest, neck, and head upward. Extend your forearms out in front of you, palms facing down, to support the weight of your torso.
Inhale and relax, then exhale and lift your right leg a few inches off the floor. You should feel slight tension in your upper leg. Hold for three seconds, lower your leg to the floor, and repeat with your left leg. Do this for a few reps on each side, and gradually begin to build over time.
2. Legs Up the Wall
Through passive inversion, this restorative and very relaxing yoga pose can boost circulation in your upper body and head which, in turn, relieves tension and helps reduce back pain. It’s one of the best yoga poses for back pain.
Start by sitting on the floor with your right shoulder, hip, and thigh against a wall (place a yoga bolster or rolled towel nearby). Lower your torso so that you are lying on the floor, then turn your body so that you can swing your legs upward onto the wall. Your torso should be perpendicular to the wall with your legs up and resting on the wall.
Next, press the soles of your feet into the wall, lift your hips and slide the bolster underneath. Extend your arms out in a “T” position. Rest passively for five minutes.
When you are ready, press the soles of your feet against the wall and lift your hips to slide the bolster out from under you. Then, slowly lower your pelvis to the floor, roll onto your right side and use your hand to lift yourself back up into a sitting position.
3. Child’s Pose
This deeply relaxing pose gently stretches the spine and relieves tension in the neck and back. Kneel with your knees hip-width distance apart and your buttocks resting on your heels. Exhale and allow your chest to relax toward the mat. Rest your forehead on the floor and extend your arms forward with your palms facing down.
Hold for one minute, allowing the tension in your neck, shoulders, and arms to drain away, continuing to breathe deeply. To release, use your hands to slowly walk your torso upright so that you are, once again, seated on your heels.
4. Cat/Cow Pose
These two simple poses, when practiced together in a sequence, can help warm up the body, loosen the back muscles, improve posture, restore spinal alignment, and establish a sense of balance.
Start out on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees stacked above your hips.
As you slowly exhale, round your spine upward toward the ceiling, tucking your tailbone in and bringing your chin toward your chest (in Cat Pose). Hold for three seconds.
Next, as you inhale, arch your back, lower your abdomen, and lift your head and tailbone upward (into Cow Pose). Alternate between the two poses for approximately one minute, then finish with a Child’s Pose.
5. Two Knee Spinal Twist
This beginner’s yoga pose can help relieve muscle tightness throughout the shoulders, upper and lower back, hips, and spine. Lie on your back, bend your knees toward your chest, keep your feet flat on the floor, and extend your arms out to form a “T.”
As you slowly exhale, lower your knees to the floor on your right side. Try to keep both shoulders pressed firmly down; if your left shoulder lifts, move your knees slightly down and away from your right arm. Hold the pose for one to two minutes, then repeat on the opposite side.
6. Downward Facing Dog
This yoga pose elongates the spine, strengthens the core muscles, and promotes a full body stretch that specifically targets the back extensors (the large muscles in the lower back that support the spine and enable standing and lifting). Needless to say, it’s one of the perfect yoga poses for back pain.
Start out on your hands and knees with your hands placed slightly in front of your shoulders and your fingers spread wide (to distribute your weight evenly through your hands).
As you exhale, slowly press back, raising your knees off the floor and lifting your tailbone toward the ceiling to position your body in the shape of an “A.” Gently push your heels into the floor and hold the position for five breaths, and then repeat the sequence five to seven times.
Watch this Down Dog tutorial
Yoga Poses for Back Pain: The Takeaway
Yoga is generally safe, but if you feel a sudden new pain or your existing pain worsens while practicing a pose, you should stop immediately and contact your physician. Also, if you don’t see any progress after a reasonable amount of time, you should discuss your experience with your physician and ask about altering your regimen.
Remember, therapeutic yoga is not a “one size fits all” treatment; rather, it is an ongoing process. To find the most effective approach for you, you must listen carefully to your body and respond accordingly by fine-tuning your routine.
Are you interested in trying Yin Yoga? Check out our 7-class Yin Yoga Program. See the classes here.
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5 Yoga Poses to Ease Lower Back Pain
The lower back, or the lumbar region, can be an area that often gets sensitive for most of us at some point in our lives. Whether we have to sit a lot during the day, or whether we move a lot, the lumbar region can get affected. In any case, pain in the lower back can seriously affect your mood and your day.
Yoga can offer a great relief for the pain, as well as provide great preventative care for the future. Here are five yoga poses to ease lower back pain and relieve that dull ache.
1. Supine Twist
A twist to the spine offers a great tension reliever for the entire back, as well as the neck. You get to lay down, relax and let the gravity help you.
Lay on your back, bring your arms to a T-shape on the floor, and bring your knees towards your chest. Slowly lower both knees to the left, keeping the neck neutral or turning the gaze away from the knees.
Try to keep both shoulders on the floor, and if the top knee lifts too much, you can place a block or a bolster between the knees. Stay anywhere between 1-4 minutes, and repeat on the other side.
2. Sphinx Pose
The Sphinx is a great pose for toning the spine and stimulating the sacral-lumbar arch. When we sit a lot, the lower back tends to flatten, which can cause pain. Sphinx pose promotes the natural curvature of the lower back.
Start by laying on your stomach, feet hip-width apart, and bring the elbows under the shoulders. If there is too much pressure on your lower back, you can bring your elbows slightly forward.
If you want a deeper bend, place a block under the elbows. Hold the pose for 1-3 minutes, and come out by first lowering your upper body on to the floor. Relax on the floor as long as needed, and then come to a child pose for few breaths.
3. Thread the Needle Pose
Credit: Kristin McGee
If the hips are tight, the movement we need tends to come from the back, which results in back pain. When the hips and hamstrings are open, this can help alleviate the lower back pain as well, since the body has a better and fuller range of motion. This pose stretches the hips, outer thighs, lower back and spine. It’s also a milder, modified version of the Pigeon pose.
To start, lay on the floor, and bring the soles of the feet on the ground, feet hip-distance apart. Place your right ankle on the left thigh, and keep the foot flexed throughout the pose. Take your right arm in between the space of the legs, and the left arm outside the left thigh.
Interlace the fingers either behind your knee, or on top of the shin, depending on the space available to you. Keep the back and shoulders relaxed. Stay anywhere between 1-3 minutes and change sides.
4. Cat and Cow Pose
Credit: Kristin McGee
With this simple movement you are stretching the hips and the entire spine.
Start on your hands and knees. While inhaling, lift your chest and tailbone towards the ceiling, and while exhaling, arch your back, pressing through the shoulder blades and dropping your head.
Continue according to the rhythm of your breath. Feel the muscles on your back, and take any additional movement that might feel good for you today.
Make 6-8 slow rounds.
5. Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is a great pose for lengthening and decompressing the entire spine. It stretches the hamstrings as well, which will also help with lower back issues.
From your hands and knees, tuck your toes under and rise to Downward Facing Dog. Start with your knees bent, back straight and long, tailbone towards the ceiling. Slowly straighten and stretch one leg at a time back bringing the heel closer towards the ground.
Draw the shoulder blades towards the spine and actively try to lower them, rotating your upper arms outwards. Stay for 5 breaths.
Your lower back supports the whole torso, so taking care of it is kind of important. Sitting less, moving more, stretching and strengthening the back goes a long way. However, if you are having persistent pain in your lower back, it’s always good to check it with the doctor to make sure nothing more serious is going on.
6 Yoga Poses to Beat Back Pain ASAP
In today’s nonstop world, we’re all guilty of putting too much pressure on our bodies. Whether you’re knocking out AMRAPs at the gym or simply sitting at a desk all day long, your body has a certain way of telling you’re overdoing it—and it isn’t pretty. Millions of Americans deal with chronic pain in the lower back, and if you’re one of them, you know how frustrating it can be.
Enter this mind-blowingly simple (and totally free) fix: a 15-minute sequence from yoga instructor Brett Larkin. “The lower back isn’t an area you can quickly stretch or strengthen like your triceps. Instead, it needs patience, time, and traction in order to gently unwind,” says Larkin, who suffers from low back pain herself (yep, even yoga teachers deal with it!).
In this beginner-friendly sequence, you won’t do any bendy vinyasa poses. Instead, you will go through gentle forward folds and easy twists that focus on lengthening and releasing your lower back. A form of self-myofascial release (SMR), these moves will leave your back feeling much more relaxed and less tense by the end of the sequence.
The best part: All you need is a mat—and some patience. It takes time to truly heal low back tension, so put on some mellow music (Enya will do just fine!) to help the time pass by. To give yourself a truly restorative experience, you can also dim the lights, grab a blanket, light a candle, and prepare to say buh-bye to back pain for good.
Brett Larkin teaches vinyasa flow yoga at top San Francisco studios and on her YouTube channel, where thousands of students have studied with her for more than 5 million minutes. Find free yoga playlists, yoga teacher training tips, and free dance, yoga, and meditation classes at BrettLarkin.com.
Lower Back Pain Symptoms and Diagnosis
The cause of back pain can usually be diagnosed with a detailed description of one’s symptoms. The description of back pain symptoms, along with one’s medical history (and possibly diagnostic testing), will usually lead to a diagnosis of a general cause (such as back strain), or a specific condition (such as a herniated disc).
Back Pain Symptoms from a Sprain or Strain
Back sprain or strain symptoms generally include:
- Pain is usually localized in the low back (doesn’t radiate down the leg)
- Pain often starts after lifting something heavy, lifting while twisting, or a sudden movement or fall
- Pain may include muscle spasms, tenderness upon touch
- Pain is less when resting and worse during certain activities.
See Lower Back Muscle Strain Symptoms
Lower back pain from a muscle strain usually will get better within one to three days.
See Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Chronic Back Pain Symptoms
Symptoms that are part of a diagnosable chronic condition can include:
- Leg pain (sciatica) and possible numbness. Pain can radiate down the leg to the buttock and/or the foot, and can be worse with sitting or prolonged standing. This type of pain can be due to a lumbar herniated disc.
- Pain with certain movement and positions (such as bending forward, running). The pain tends to fluctuate, with low level or no pain at times, and then flare up at other times. This chronic back pain can be caused by degenerative disc disease.
- Lower back pain, often accompanied by leg pain, which worsens when standing or walking for long periods. This pain may be caused by a small stress fracture in the back of the spine called isthmic spondylolisthesis.
- Lower back pain that is worse in the morning and in the evening, and stiffness (usually in older adults). This back pain may be caused by facet joint osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis).
- Pain that is felt down the legs when walking and standing upright and that feels worse with more walking and gets better after sitting down (usually in older adults). This pain may be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis and/or degenerative spondylolisthesis.
There are many more conditions can cause lower back pain, leg pain and other symptoms; the intention of this article is to highlight the most common ones.
See Main Considerations When Getting a Back Pain Diagnosis
There are a few symptoms that are possible indications of serious medical conditions, and patients with these symptoms should contact a doctor immediately:
- Difficulty passing urine or having a bowel movement
- Progressive weakness in the legs
- Severe, continuous abdominal and lower back pain.
Causes of Lower Back Pain When Sitting, Standing, and Walking
Lower back pain is a widespread condition affecting over half of all adults at some point in their lives. Some of these adults find sitting, standing and/or walking painfully difficult. While lower back pain is common and at times debilitating, there remains no consensus on the optimal way to diagnose and treat patients with this condition. There are a variety of causes for lower back pain and it can be difficult to identify the specific anatomical structure that is causing the pain. Fortunately, successful treatment is not always predicated on finding the specific pain generator.
Lower back pain is very common and can make standing at the bathroom sink a painful experience. Photo Source: iStock.com.By subdividing patients with lower back pain into more homogenous groups based on factors that aggravate and alleviate the pain, a more specific treatment regimen can be prescribed. A focused approach to treatment rather than the “one size fits all” method leads to better results. Many patients find that certain positions and activities make their back pain better or worse. These are important clues that can help in lower back pain diagnosis and treatment.
Given that most people will sit, stand, and walk on any given day, a lot of research has been conducted on how these specific activities relate to the spine and lower back pain. The remainder of this article will discuss why sitting, standing, and walking can change the severity of lower back pain and how it can be helpful in diagnosis.
Spinal Anatomy — Lower Back Pain
For the purpose of this article, it is helpful to envision the lumbar spine as a tube with supporting structures in front (anterior) of and behind (posterior) it. The tube represents the spinal canal that contains the cerebrospinal fluid and nerve roots. At each lumbar level, a pair of nerve roots exit the “tube” through small openings called the neural foramen (neuroforamen). Behind the neural foramen are the facet joints that allow for motion at each lumbar segment. The paraspinal muscles attach to the back of the bony spinal column and help stabilize and extend the spine. In front of the “tube” are the bony vertebral bodies separated by the intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers.
The alignment of the spinal column, from the skull to the pelvis, is S shaped. The cervical and lumbar spinal segments are lordotic (curving towards the front of your body) while the thoracic spine is kyphotic (curving towards the back of your body). The amount of lordosis or curvature is not static and can change based on body position. Compared to standing, sitting decreases your lumbar lordosis by approximately 50%.
- Changes in lumbar lordosis will alleviate certain forms of back pain and will aggravate others as will be described below.
The alignment of the spinal column is S shaped beginning at the base of skull and through the pelvis. Photo Source: iStock.com.Imagine you are holding a segment of rubber tubing, a garden hose for example, in a vertical orientation in front of you. Again, the hollow segment of the tube represents the spinal canal, the segment of hose facing you represents the posterior spinal column, and the segment of hose facing away from you represents the anterior spinal column. Now try bending the tubing in half. The tubing on the convexity or outward facing side of the curve will be tensioned or stretched out, while the tubing on the concavity or inward facing side of the tube will be compressed.
This mental exercise helps to reinforce the principle that objects that are being bent will experience two forces—compression and tension. An increase in lumbar lordosis will compress the posterior column (paraspinal muscles, facet joints, neural foramen) and stretch out the anterior column (vertebral body and discs). Similarly, a decrease in lumbar lordosis will stretch out the posterior column and compress the anterior column. This forms the basis of why certain positions can alleviate back pain symptoms in some people and make it worse in others.
- Paraspinal Muscles: Prolonged sitting, especially if slouching, can cause overstretching of the paraspinal muscles. Imagine how sore your hamstrings would be if you tried to touch your toes for an hour!
- Facet Joints: Like most joints in our body, arthritis can affect the facet joints. Given that the facet joints are posteriorly based structures, they become compressed with increased lordosis. When facet joints are the primary pain generator, pain tends to improve with sitting and worsen with prolonged standing and walking.
Vertebral Disc (Intervertebral Disc): When the vertebral disc is the pain generator, sitting tends to aggravate the pain as more compression is occurring across the injured tissue. In certain types of disc herniations, sitting may compress the disc to a point where the herniated tissue presses against a nerve root causing radicular pain (pain radiating to the lower extremity, such as the thigh). Walking tends to alleviate discogenic pain.
3 Lower Back Pain Provoking Conditions
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Pain due to spinal stenosis—narrowing of the spinal canal—tends to be improved with sitting, especially when leaning forward. This posture increases the size of the lumbar spinal canal and neural foramen, decreasing the amount of nerve root compression. The size of the spinal canal and neural foramen decrease when standing and walking. Walking with flexed posture, such as leaning on a shopping cart, tends to be more comfortable then walking upright.
Spondylolisthesis: Pain that occurs immediately when sitting and is at least partially relieved by standing has been associated with lumbar spinal instability or spondylolisthesis. Standing in a neutral position for short periods of time tends to improve pain compared to walking and bending where the movement of the vertebral bodies provoke pain.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: Sacroiliac joint pain can be aggravated by sitting, particularly if more weight is placed on the affected side. As in the case of spondylolisthesis, pain can occur when transitioning from standing from a sitting position.
Lower Back “Pain Generator” Important to Treatment Selection
Sitting, standing, and walking can worsen or improve the severity of lower back pain. These symptoms can help identify the anatomic culprit or “pain generator.” This knowledge aids in selecting the optimal treatment regimen for a painful lower back.
Dankaerts W, O’Sullivan P, Burnett A, Straker L. Differences in sitting postures are associated with nonspecific chronic low back pain disorders when patients are subclassified. Spine. 2006;31(6):698-704.
Lord MJ, Small JM, Dinsay JM, Watkins RG. Lumbar lordosis: effects of sitting and standing. Spine. 1997;22(21):2571-2574.
Maigne JY, Lapeyre E, Moryan G, Chatellier G. Pain immediately upon sitting down and relieved by standing up is often associated with radiologic lumbar instability or marked anterior loss of disc space. Spine. 2003;28(12):1327-1334.
Sheeran L, van Deursen R, Caterson B, Sparkes V. Classification-guided versus generalized postural intervention in subgroups of nonspecific chronic low back pain: a pragmatic randomized controlled study. Spine. 2013;38(19):1613-1625.
Question: I get lower back pain when I stand for more than about 10 minutes. If I sit down, it tends to feel better. Is there anything that I can do besides sitting down to help my back?
Prolonged standing can result in relying on a posture that tilts the pelvis forward. For some, this anterior tilt can result in some lower back pain, and for others, it’s no big deal.
Over time, this posture can alter the way you breathe and limit your ability toutilize your abdominal muscles and exhale as you normally would. For some people, this limits how much they can move their back and may result in prolonged pressure or muscle tension in areas of your back that may become painful.
Try this exercise to help restore your movement options for your back and your breathing as well.
Lay on the floor with the backs of your heels supported on a chair.
Your knees and hips should be bent about 90 degrees.
Push down on the chair with your heel until your feel the muscles on the back of your thighs turn on.
Lift your tailbone off the floor while keeping your lower back on the floor.
Take a normal breath in through your nose.
Blow all of your air out through your mouth, reach for the ceiling with both hands, and keep your head on the floor.
Repeat a normal breath in, a full exhalation, and the longest reach possible 3-5 times.
Take a short rest and repeat the exercise for 3-5 sets.
If you know someone who is struggling with lower back pain or sciatica right now,
Call IFAST Physical Therapy at 317-578-0998 or email to get a copy of The IFAST PT Sciatica Solution.
Call IFAST Physical Therapy at 317-578-0998 or email for a FREE Injury Consultation and get all your questions answered. There is no obligation.
Published on May 15, 2017
Is Your Bad Back Bringing You Down? Practice These 12 Yoga Poses for Back Pain for Real Relief
After making it to the big leagues (aka cubicle life), I noticed a major shift in my overall energy and health. The key driver behind this shift was – drumroll please – sitting.
We all sit: in our cars, on our couches, at work, while eating. We sit, sit. And then we sit some more.
But here’s the scary part. Sitting is leading to a nationwide epidemic. Millions of people suffer from back and neck pain every year with most cases stemming from our modern sedentary lifestyles.
The back suffers from the neck down to the tailbone. It’s an all-over crisis. Truly, sitting is the new smoking. But luckily, there are many yoga poses for back pain that can help.
Here Are 12 Yoga Poses for Back Pain to Relieve Tension and Make Your Back Feel Better:
How can we relieve and ultimately reverse the aches and pains from our sedentary lifestyles? Try these 12 yoga poses for back pain to find some relief!
Lets’s try it:
- Begin lying on your back with legs and arms extended long
- Bring both knees to your chest and clasp your hands around them
- Keep your back flat on the mat and draw your tailbone and sacrum toward the ground to lengthen your spine
- If you’re comfortable, rock gently from side to side to massage your spine
2. Ardha Apanasana
Let’s try it:
- Begin lying on your back with legs and arms extended long
- Bring both knees into your chest and clasp your hands around them
- Hold your right knee into your chest and extend your left leg long
- If you’re comfortable, rock your knee from armpit to chest and then find stillness wherever is comfortable
- Stay for a minute, and then switch to the other leg
3. Supine Spinal Twist
Let’s try it:
- Begin from the pose above with your right knee hugging into your chest
- Roll onto your left hip as you soften your right knee toward the ground
- Extend your right arm out along the floor, about the height of your shoulder
- Keep your left hand resting gently on your right knee
- Let your right knee become heavy, slowly releasing farther toward the floor
- Stay for 10 to 30 breaths
- Gently engage your lower belly and bring both knees back to center
- Repeat on the left side
Let’s try it:
- Begin in a neutral tabletop position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips over your knees
- Inhale and soften your belly toward the ground, lift your tailbone skyward, roll your shoulders back, broaden your collarbones, lift your chin slightly, and gaze toward the ceiling
- Exhale and lower your tailbone toward the ground, round your back, draw your belly up and in, and allow your head and neck to completely relax
- Repeat this movement five to 10 times
5. Forward Fold
Let’s try it:
- Begin in Mountain Pose and bring your hands to your hips
- Exhale, bend your knees and release your entire body toward the ground
- Keep a bend in your knees, as deep or mild as you choose
- Let your chest, head, and neck completely relax and melt down
- Engage your quadriceps to let your hamstrings release
- Inhale and gently feel your torso lift and lengthen
- Exhale and release deeper in the posture
Let’s try it:
- Begin in a neutral tabletop position
- Spread your fingers wide
- Exhale and curl your toes under, lift your knees off the ground, send your hips back and high toward the ceiling, lengthen your arms long, and keep your head and neck in line with your arms
- Imagine your body is making an upside down V-shape
- Keep your knees bent to allow expansion and relief across your lower back
- Stay for as long as your heart desires, then exhale your knees back to the ground into a neutral tabletop position
7. Child’s Pose
Let’s try it:
- Begin in a neutral tabletop position
- Bring your knees together, sit back onto your heels, then gently release your torso to the ground
- Your arms can drape behind your body with your palms up or they can extend long toward the front of your mat with your palms down
- Rest your forehead softly on the ground and lengthen the back of your neck
- Gently close your eyes and let gravity do the work
8. Rabbit Pose
Let’s try it:
- From Child’s Pose, bring your hands to the backs of your heels and pull your forehead in toward your knees with the top of your head resting on the floor
- Inhale and lift your hips toward the ceiling, roll onto the crown of your head, and press your forehead as close to your knees as possible
- Hold for five to 10 deep breaths
- Exhale and lower your hips to your heels and slide your forehead forward to resume Child’s Pose
9. Thread the Needle
Let’s try it:
- Begin in a neutral tabletop position and start on the right side
- Inhale and send your right hand straight up to the sky and open your heart
- Exhale and thread your right hand through and underneath your left arm with your palm facing up
- Let your right shoulder and ear relax down to the ground
- Keep your left hand planted, extend it long in front of you or wrap it around your opposite hip for a bind
- Soften, relax, and melt into the posture – let all tension release
- To come out, press into your left hand, slide your right arm out from underneath, and return to tabletop
- Repeat on the left side
10. Pigeon Pose
Let’s try it:
- Begin in a neutral tabletop position
- Bring your right knee to your right wrist and your right ankle toward your left wrist
- Extend your left leg back with your kneecap and the top of your foot resting on the floor
- Inhale and press your fingertips into the ground and lengthen through the front side of your body.
- Exhale and release your torso to the ground, a block, or your forearms
- Focus on keeping your hips squared to the front of your mat
- Hold the pose for up to a minute while breathing deeply
11. Happy Baby
Let’s try it:
- Begin lying on your back with your knees drawing into your chest
- Grab hold of the outer edges of your feet with your hands
- Flex your feet and engage your arms
- Bring your knees wide and draw them toward your armpits
- Use your arm strength to bring your knees closer to the ground and release your lower back into the mat
- Stay for as long as you like, rock gently from side to side, and breathe
12. Legs Up the Wall
Let’s try it:
- Find a wall with plenty of space to stretch alongside it
- Press your sitting bones against the wall or a few inches away from it
- Rest your back on the ground and stretch your legs straight up the wall with your knees soft
- Take a moment to adjust your body and find what works best for you. Feel free to use bolsters and blankets for added comfort
- Completely relax into the posture – let your entire body melt, soften, and surrender to the ground beneath you
- Stay here for as long as your heart desires!
Feel Better With These Yoga Poses for Back Pain
These yoga poses for back pain are a general guideline to help with back pain and can be performed in any specific order. Always listen to your body, breathe deeply into the postures, and back out if any pain arises. You are your own best teacher!
The above yoga poses for back pain barely scratch the surface of how yoga can restore the body, especially for those who suffer from back pain. Seek out a yoga workshop, a private yoga lesson, or a yoga therapist to learn more about your body and how yoga can help.
Practice the poses along with us! Watch this yoga sequence with the poses you just learned about above:
Leave any questions, comments or suggestions, or general yoga love in the comments below. We are here to help and love hearing from you!
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3 Beginner Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain Relief
Yoga is a low-impact, effective way to relax tight muscles and build strength—which can help relieve lower back pain. Try these 3 beginner-level poses and see if you find relief. Remember to take it slow and stop if the pain gets worse.
Yoga can help to strengthen and strech the lower back muscles, alleviating tension and pain.
Read How Yoga Helps the Back
The sphinx pose puts your lower back muscles in a more relaxed position and is sometimes recommended for people who have sciatica pain from a herniated disc. You need to lie on the ground, so use a yoga mat or thick towel.
- Lie flat on your stomach with your legs straight. Keep your forearms on the ground next to you, tucked in close to your sides.
- On an inhale, tighten your legs and raise your chest off the ground by pushing with your arms. Your forearms and palms should stay on the ground.
- Your hips, legs, and feet should maintain contact with the ground, and your elbows should be aligned directly under your shoulders.
- Hold this pose for 5 seconds, then gently lower your torso back to the ground.
See Exercise for Sciatica from a Herniated Disc
Repeat this pose as you are comfortable. Gradually work your way up to 30 seconds per repetition.
Cat and cow are 2 different yoga poses, but they are typically practiced together. Here’s how to do them:
- Start on your hands and knees. Align your arms straight under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Look at the floor, keeping your head straight in line with your torso and spine.
Move into the cat pose:
- Round your back, lifting your spine toward the ceiling.
- Your eyes will face your belly.
After a breath, move into the cow pose:
- Slowly lift your chest and tailbone toward the ceiling, letting your stomach sink toward the ground.
- Your eyes will look up toward the ceiling.
- After another breath, gently return to the cat pose.
- Repeat these motions a few times or until you feel adequately stretched.
Together, these poses form a gentle yet effective stretch for your lower back.
See Healing Benefits of Yoga
In This Article:
- 4 Reasons You May Have a Stiff Back
- Is My Lower Back Pain Serious?
- 7 Tips to Protect Your Lower Back
- 3 Beginner Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain Relief
- Causes of Lower Back Pain Video
Modified down dog pose
Downward-facing dog is a popular yoga pose, but it can be difficult to perform, especially for people with painful hand or wrist conditions. Here’s a modified version that may be gentler on the body:
- Stand and face a wall. Place your hands on the wall between waist and chest level. Set your feet hips-width apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and slowly walk away from the wall, keeping your hips over your feet and your hands pressed against the wall.
- Stop in place once your arms form a straight line with your spine, keeping your back as flat as possible.
- You should feel a stretch through your back.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then slowly walk forward to come out of the pose.
This pose helps lengthen your back muscles.
See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain
Not all of these yoga poses may ease your lower back pain, so experiment and see which ones work best for you. If any of these poses worsen your pain, talk to your doctor immediately.
Stretching for Back Pain Relief
Pilates Exercise and Back Pain
The Best Yoga Poses for Every Type of Back Pain
Your sore back isn’t alone in the world. Back pain is ubiquitous: about 80 percent of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, and it’s the leading cause of job-related disability. Luckily, for sore backs, there’s yoga. Here, we’ve listed out a couple of poses for upper, middle, and lower back pain — but no one’s stopping you from trying all of them.
(Reminder to check with your doctor to check if these poses are right for you.)
Yoga Poses for Upper Back Pain
Much of your back pain may be caused by poor posture — your upper back is no exception. When you’re looking for poses that will help relieve your upper back, find those that talk about opening up the shoulders. The following poses will help you do just that.
- Start on your hands and knees. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips are over your knees.
- Inhale and arch your back, tipping your tailbone up to the sky and gently pushing your belly down to the floor. Squeeze your shoulders together and elongate your neck.
- Come back to center and move into cat pose: round your spine to the sky, tuck your chin to your chest, and stretch through your mid and upper back.
- Continue to flow in and out of these two poses for as long as feels good.
Double V Pose
- In this pose, you’ll be crossing your arms underneath you while you lie on your belly. To start, place a block at the top of your mat.
- Lying on your belly, prop yourself up and cross your right arm underneath your collarbone so your fingers are pointing to the left side of the mat.
- Cross your left arm under your collarbone so that your fingers are pointing to the right of the mat. At this point, both forearms should be crossed beneath your chest.
- Walk your fingers as far as they can go to bring your chest as close to the ground as possible, and rest your head on your block. Breathe.
- Once you’re ready, switch the top arm out so they both get a stretch.
Yoga Poses for Mid Back Pain
Many of the poses meant to relieve mid back pain will talk about strengthening the spine. For the mid back, strengthening the muscles around the spine will help keep everything steady, making it more resistant to pulls or tweaks. These two poses should help you get a stronger back.
- Think downward dog, but modified. Begin in table top, with wrists and shoulders in line and knees and hips in line.
- Walk your hands towards the top of your mat, elongating the spine, pulling your chest down, and bringing your forehead to the floor to rest. Your hips should still be stacked on top of your knees.
- Start in downward dog. Bring your hips down and body forward into a plank pose.
- Lower yourself to the ground, keeping your elbows tucked.
- Gently push up through the floor, keeping your hips down, opening your chest and keeping the back of your neck long. Roll your shoulders back and down as you lift your chest as high as it will go. Try to straighten your arms fully.
Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
Pain at the seat of your spine is likely also related to tight ligaments and muscles in your hips and legs. The following two poses target the lower back, but they also stretch key parts of your lower body, including your hamstrings and hips, to help release tension at the base of your spine.
Wide Leg Forward Fold
- Start with your legs wide apart (the wider you have them, the easier the pose).
- Begin to fold forward from the hips, keeping the spine straight. Keep your hands on your hips to steady the fold.
- Place your palms on the mat, inhale and lift your body up halfway, and exhale into the fold, putting your palms back onto the mat and folding into your elbows, bending them as necessary. If you’re flexible, move your palms to be right between your legs, resting the top of your head on your mat.
- Inhale up, exhale down for a few counts. When you’re done, fold back up, keeping your spine straight.
Half Butterfly Seated Pose
- Start in a seated pose, legs crisscrossed in front of you.
- Extend your left leg out straight in front of you and bring your right foot to your left leg’s inner thigh.
- Turn your torso and upper body toward your left leg.
- Inhale, bringing your arms above your head, and exhale and fold into your left leg, letting gravity do most of the work. Allow your chin to fold into your chest (but if this is uncomfortable for you at any point, bring your neck to neutral).
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