Stretching and strengthening your body can improve mobility and ease many types of pain, from arthritis to lower back pain.
A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that yoga or intense stretching classes can help improve function and reduce symptoms of chronic lower back pain. The study used adults with chronic, moderately impairing lower back pain and divided them into three groups. One group did a weekly yoga class, the second group did a weekly intensive stretching class, and the third group used a self-care book about reducing back pain.
More than 50 per cent of the participants in the yoga and stretching groups showed a substantial improvement, compared to only 23 per cent in the self-help group.
Both the yoga and the stretching groups reported a decline in lower back pain and a reduction in their use of medication. Yoga’s benefits are largely a result of the physical aspect of stretching and strengthening the muscles.
The yoga and stretching participants reported benefits lasting for about six months from when they started taking the classes. Sixty-two per cent of the yoga class and 82 per cent of the stretching class enjoyed the benefits so much they said they practised at home three or more times a week, improving their results.
Most individuals who suffer from chronic lower back pain and arthritis tend not to move enough, or at all. Over time, this inactivity makes the pain worse.
This study, the largest to date on yoga and back pain, reinforces the message that exercise is safe and beneficial for individuals with chronic lower back pain. Stretching regularly can help keep you more flexible, and thus help your body distribute its weight more efficiently.
Both yoga and stretching help relax overly tight muscles that contribute to pain, stiffness and immobility. An exercise program may also help you lose weight, which can reduce the stress on your joints, also decreasing pain.
For best results, an exercise program should include both flexibility and strength training modified to your specific needs. But always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
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