Can Yoga Relieve Lower Back Pain?

Happy Friday Everyone! I’m pretty excited for the weekend, Michael and I are going to a Halloween party Saturday night at a friend’s house and it should be a blast! We are also having a pot luck lunch here at work and people are dressing up, I like these little events because they make Friday more fun than it already is and they seem to fly by.  What are you Halloween plans?

I have not posted much about yoga in the last month or so because I was preoccupied with running and the Chicago Marathon.  It was one of my monthly goals to post about yoga so I figure I better get going since the month is nearly over! I regularly follow yoga in the news.  I am interested in hearing the results of studies and other information about yoga.  I honestly believe that the benefits of yoga stretch far and wide.  Yoga can help stretch and lengthen the body, help heal tired and injured muscles, build strength and calm the inner nervous system and the mind…and this is just what I can get in one sentence!  I came across this article about a study of yoga and stretching to help ease lower back pain.  Part of the reason for sharing this is because it compares yoga classes to a stretching routine and it is focused on easing lower back pain, all of which I think applies directly to runners.  As I runner I struggle with lower back pain frequently.  Mine is caused by my tight hips but is triggered and aggravated by high mileage and long runs. Lucky for me I practice yoga frequently and work on opening my hips and keeping my hamstrings and quads loose and lengthened.  I do realize though that many runners do not have the time or energy to make stretching deeply and thoroughly a priority and experience injury, pain or just tired muscles as a result.  So maybe, just maybe, this will encourage you to stretch longer post run or try a quick yoga routine for runners after your next run!

Wheel Pose

The study included 228 people who suffered from lower back pain.  The subjects took 12 classes each week that lasted 75 minutes each over 26 weeks.  The 228 people participating were broken down in three groups as follows:

The yoga was a type known as viniyoga, which features poses adapted for the individual condition of those in the class, breathing exercises and a deep relaxation period. Classes were taught by instructors with more than 500 hours of training.

The stretch classes were taught by licensed physical therapists with teaching experience and two hours of training in techniques that focused on the trunk, legs, hamstrings and hips. Some strengthening exercises were also included.

The third group was given a self-care book called “The Back Pain Helpbook” to read for tips on alleviating pain.

The result was that both the yoga and stretching groups showed much more function than those who used the self-care book.  All of the groups did see some improvement.

One thing I took note of when reading this article was that a yoga class and stretching class can be very similar.  While the movements themselves may differ a stretching class with some strengthening would possibly give similar results to a yoga class.  In fact the article states the following:

She also acknowledged that the stretching classes were longer and more intense than those typically offered at neighborhood gyms, so the trial may have been inadvertently comparing two very similar exercise methods.

I think the main take away from this study is that BOTH yoga and stretching proved to be beneficial to these test subjects and that with both methods they saw an improved functionality of their lower backs.  While these subjects were looking to relieve pain through physical activity and may or may not have been active in their own lives we now know that it does help.  For the complete article, Study: Yoga, stretching help lower back pain, please follow the link.

Hopefully with the help of this scientific study you all will take to your yoga mat or find a stretching class and join in just a couple of days a week.  I know it’s not a cardio workout or the same as lifting weights but it will improve your overall fitness.  So go on and roll out that mat, find a yoga or stretching class this weekend and have fun with it!  Enjoy your weekends!

Do you regularly stretch after your runs? Has yoga improved your flexibility? Do you combine yoga and running for a balanced workout? Do you suffer from low back pain as a result of running? Would you give yoga a try if you suffered from back pain?


3 thoughts on “Can Yoga Relieve Lower Back Pain?

  1. candicepeak says:

    Thanks for sharing this article! I also practice yoga in order to compliment my running. I originally started yoga to compliment my swimming career and have since carried it over to running. I think yoga should be a must for every runner, even if its just once a week! Happy Friday!


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