By Dr. Brent Wells (Guest Writer) –
If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer with chronic back and neck pain, consider adding some yoga exercises to your routine. Yoga improves your flexibility and reduces tension, which can dramatically reduce sensations of pain when practiced regularly.
While many people do yoga as a workout, it doesn’t have to be intense — you can pick and choose the poses that are most helpful for you and do them at home if you prefer.
Back and neck pain are becoming increasingly common, as many people spend most of their day sitting down in front of a computer. This forces the spine into a very unnatural position, which can cause pain in the nerves and muscles.
You also might experience back pain if you spend a lot of time driving, or even if you stand for an uncomfortable amount of time. Keeping your spine in an unnatural position for a long time is eventually going to result in tension and misalignment.
This can be further irritated by injuries or frequent heavy lifting. Luckily, relaxing yoga poses are an excellent way to release this tension and prevent future pain, particularly when paired with other forms of care, like chiropractic and traditional medicine.
Easy Yoga Poses For Back and Neck Pain
You don’t have to strain your body to do yoga. These poses are very restorative and are intended to be gentle and pain-free. If you experience any pain while doing these exercises, you can modify them to make them more beneficial. Since these poses are simple, you can do them at home or even on a break at work — whenever you are feeling tense.
1. Downward Facing Dog
Chances are, you already know how to do this yoga pose, but it’s still worth mentioning because it is so effective for reducing back pain. To achieve this position, start on your hands and knees, and then straighten your legs so your hips are in the air. Focus on really elongating through the back and through the legs while keeping your shoulders down. You’ll feel a wonderful deep stretch and start to gain mobility in this area.
2. Cat/Cow Stretch
This exercise is excellent for both the neck and the back. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, keeping your back flat with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips for good alignment.
Start by arching your back and lifting your head and tail into cow pose. Then, exhale as you tuck your chin into your chest and round your back into cat pose. Slowly repeat this about five times to improve your mobility and stretch out the tension in your spine.
3. Seated Spinal Twist
While cat/cow is great for improving your vertical flexibility, a seated spinal twist is wonderful for improving your lateral flexibility. Sit on the ground and put your right foot on the outside of your left knee, so that your right knee is up and crossed over your body.
Press your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and look to the right, so your spine is gently twisting. Focus on lengthening the back and keeping the shoulders down, and then repeat the pose on the other side. Make sure to keep both hips completely on the floor – this ensures that your spine is well-aligned.
4. Sphinx Pose
If you want to improve the flexibility and strength through your entire back, try sphinx pose. Although this is a fairly intense stretch, it’s still accessible for yoga beginners. Start by laying on your stomach with your forehead on your palms.
Then, lift your head, neck, and upper back up as far as you can, while bringing your forearms directly in front of you to press up. Focus on opening up your chest and keeping your shoulders down.
5. Standing Forward Bend
A forward bend, whether seated or standing, is always going to be very helpful for getting rid of back and neck pain because it elongates the spine. A standing forward bend is typically a bit easier for beginners to master because it requires less flexibility. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, and slowly roll your spine down, keeping your knees slightly bent.
Put your hands on the floor, or on your legs if that’s more comfortable. Gently shake your head from side to side to release tension from your neck. Think about letting gravity elongate your spine as you breathe deeply into this position for about one minute.
6. Thread The Needle
This pose is excellent for releasing tension in the neck and upper back. Start on your hands and knees, and then take your right arm and thread it through your left arm, so that your palm is facing up. Place your head on the ground, looking to your left. Repeat on the other side, and stretch out in child’s pose afterward. During this pose, think about breathing deeply and really relaxing the muscles, so that you can relieve the tension that’s causing the back pain.
7. Extended Puppy Pose
This pose is somewhat similar to child’s pose, but gives you a much deeper stretch and lengthening feeling through the back. Start on all fours, and then tuck your toes up and extend your arms slightly forward. Then, bring your hips slightly back towards your heels, and allow your head and neck to rest on the floor. This will give you a very deep stretch through the entire back while keeping your lumbar spine supported.
If you have chronic neck and back pain, try spending 10 minutes a day stretching using these yoga poses. You might be surprised by just how effective they can be for releasing the tension that builds up in your spine during the day.
Of course, if you experience any sharp pain at all during any of these poses, stop immediately. Remember to breathe deeply and try to relax into the stretches, releasing tension. In addition to yoga exercises, you may also want to try a local Anchorage chiropractor or a chiropractor near you for even more guidance as you treat your back and neck pain.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He has over 20 years of experience in chiropractic practice and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family, reading, and rollerblading.