Back pain caused by muscle strain is a common occurrence that can benefit from—and even be completely rehabilitated by—a regular yoga practice. Muscle strain back pain occurs when the muscles of the back become overextended and/or overloaded and tear. Now, small muscle tears are actually okay. They help to rebuild muscles so they can become stronger. Bigger tears, however, can cause inflammation, pain and swelling in the area of the strain. This is not ideal and can affect your ability to live a pain-free life. Muscle strain back pain can vary in severity and, while it usually heals on its own, that area can become prone to future injury.
Yoga and Muscle Strain
When dealing with—or trying to prevent—muscle strain in the back, yoga is effective in numerous ways. As a holistic, alternative wellness practice, yoga offers a way of taking care of the body that is fairly complete. From stretching and strengthening the body to helping with stress management, yoga leaves no stone unturned. Here are our top five reasons we think you should be doing yoga when you have muscle strain back pain:
1. Yoga stretches the body
It is pretty common for the body to seize up after an injury. Sometimes people say they have ”thrown out their back” when referring to the reason they are having difficulty moving their spine. Tensing up is a natural and necessary response at the time of injury but afterwards can actually hinder recovery. Relaxed muscles allow for proper circulation of blood which enables the body to heal more efficiently. So, while it may be tempting to stop moving when you have strained your back, active recovery in a yoga class will do more good than harm.
2. Yoga strengthens the body
Oftentimes, the reason people throw their backs out in the first place, is because their back and/or core muscles are weak. So when overextended, the back is unable to support itself properly. Hence the muscle strain happening. Yoga will allow your body to build strength in the back and core muscles to prevent muscle strain in the future.
3. Yoga is accessible
Depending on the severity of your back muscle strain, some poses in yoga may not be available to you. Which is okay as there are a lot of variations that you can practice instead. With the use of props—blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters—it is easy to change poses to meet you where you are at on any given day. For this reason, keeping up a regular yoga practice is absolutely possible when healing your back muscle strain.
4. Yoga helps the body relax
Beyond just stretching tight muscles, yoga also teaches the body to exist in a more relaxed state. While the right amount of tension is necessary when it comes to moving and stabilising the body, we often carry around unnecessary tension. This is especially true when we have experienced muscle strain and are hyper-aware of reinjuring the back. Yoga allows you to notice when you are bracing your body and trains it to let go of unnecessary tension.
5. Yoga helps the mind relax
Stress management is a key component to managing and recovering from muscle strain back pain. Mental stress causes the body to focus on what is vital; it activates a “fight or flight” reaction in the body. In this heightened, “survival” state, the body slows down healing damaged muscle tissue in favour of preparing to react quickly to whatever is causing the stress. This obviously delays the recovery process and also strains other parts of the body, such as the immune system.
Bonus: Yoga teaches mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what is happening in the now. Often back muscle strain can happen in a moment of not paying attention to what is going on. It is lifting that box while not engaging your core muscles. By training yourself to be more present, you will hopefully be able to avoid future muscle strain and/or aggravating your current muscle strain.
Like any new activity, it can take a bit of time to find a style of yoga that you like. Try out different studios, gyms and teachers until something feels right. Gentle forms of hot yoga can help the body to warm up more quickly and stretch out more thoroughly. Whatever style you choose to go with, notice how you back feels before and after every class. Be aware of what feels good and what is best to modify or avoid. Over time, you will be able to practice in a way that supports and rehabilitates your back muscle strain. Give it a try; your back will thank you!