Yoga is a millennia old system combining breath control, meditation, and in the last 100 years, asana (AH-sun-uh) or physical postures, designed to improve health, well-being, and a greater mind-body connection. Since the late 1990’s, yoga as a physical practice has become a booming industry, and rightfully so. According to the American Osteopathic Association, the benefits are countless; not only can you expect to enjoy increased flexibility, balance, muscle strength and tone, improved cardiovascular health, and even weight reduction, “the relaxation techniques incorporated into yoga can lessen chronic pain.” How can you use yoga for chronic pain, and how does it work as an alternative treatment?
Historically, breathing techniques in yoga were intended to foster a greater mind-body connection, and ultimately as a guide into meditation. Modern yoga has not only maintained this element of “mental fitness,” but has also introduced an emphasis on physical fitness. The benefits of using yoga for chronic pain come from it being a full mental and physical system; because chronic pain is a multi-dimensional condition, affecting not only the body, but also the mind, emotions, and even social interactions and intellect, yoga is a comprehensive alternative treatment for the many ways pain impacts our lives.
Meditation and Pain
Ancient and modern yogis alike have reaped the incredible mental benefits of the breath work involved in yoga. In states of chronic pain, our breathing becomes strained and shallow. This breath pattern tells the body that something is wrong, which increases the stress response and decreases pain tolerance. Deep relaxed breathing, like that experienced in yoga, provides the opposite response and recruits the body to automatically ease symptoms of pain. Chronic pain has also been proven to trigger changes in brain structure that can be linked to depression, anxiety, and even impaired cognitive function. According to Catherine Bushnell, PhD, scientific director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain and can even relieve chronic pain. The brain’s “gray matter size correlates with pain tolerance, and increases in gray matter can result from ongoing yoga practice,” she states.
Physical Practice Can Ease Pain
The yoga practice you’ll find at your local studio is designed to move the body in every direction. This helps build muscular strength that aids in stability, and also improves flexibility, which helps with the decreased mobility many people experience when they are suffering from a chronic pain condition. Many studios offer a variety of classes, and even a basic Gentle Yoga, Chair Yoga, or Restorative Yoga class can help introduce movement and ease symptoms. What you’ll typically experience is a warm up, seated or standing postures, prone poses to cool the body down, and a period of rest, which is further calming and restorative. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that attending a weekly yoga class like this increased mobility in those suffering from chronic low back pain better than standard medical care for the condition.
Ready for Relief?
Chronic pain doesn’t have to be a fact of life. At Pain Stop North Phoenix, we help our patients by offering a comprehensive, well-rounded approach to pain management and treatment. Our team of doctors, family nurse practitioners, chiropractors and massage therapists will provide you with an accurate diagnosis, and the most advanced treatments available today. Call for your personal consultation and to learn more about how we can help!