Yoga is emerging as a therapeutic method to treat chronic pain. A popular complementary therapy for chronic pain, Yoga promotes flexibility, improves posture, relaxes tight, painful muscles and instils confidence in the practitioner. The Hatha Yoga, which includes physical practice to address strength, flexibility and balance issues and establish mind-body-breath connection is commonly prescribed to relieve pain in the shoulder, knee, back and neck.
Various research studies mention that Yoga improves functional mobility, targeting the hip extensor, knee extensor and ankle plantar flexor. Since Yoga postures require isometric contraction of specific muscle groups to stabilize the body, these are helpful for improving muscular strength and relieve pain. Yoga promotes greater hip mobility that may translate into improved walking endurance, range of motion and muscle coordination.
Practicing Yoga has been shown to reduce pain perception and offset the effects of age related fall in gray matter volume. Brain anatomy studies reveal a dramatic difference in gray matter (includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception) between the yoga practitioners and the general population. This suggests that yoga may have a neuroprotective effect as various studies also exhibit that there is a significant increase in pain tolerance in the yoga practitioners. With practising Yoga on a daily basis, practitioners experience a change in pain thresholds, as well.
The psychosocial benefits associated with Yoga are also important for pain management. Research shows that practicing yoga prevents changes in brain structure that are linked to anxiety, depression and impaired cognitive function. With Pranayama, the calming effect of Yoga may lessen perceived stress, enhance relaxation and sleep.
Just like Physical Therapy, Yoga Therapy for Shoulder, Knee, Back and Neck Pain has to be individualized to yield best results.
Shoulder work is a foundation for nearly all Hatha Yoga poses. The cause of the shoulder rounding lies deep within the shoulder area of the upper chest. Tightness in the upper chest muscles pulls the shoulders forward and down, causing pain. By performing Asanas (postural Yoga) the tension in these muscles is released.
Improved shoulder and spinal flexibility support a more upright posture. Asanas such as Utkatasana (Chair Pose), modified Navasana (Boat Pose), or variations of Salabhasana (Locust) strengthen the core and aid in countering the rounding shoulders thus relieving shoulder pain.
Yoga is beneficial to the sufferers of weak knees or pain in the knee(s). Some Yoga poses are also good to avoid knee injuries, stretching and strengthening the surrounding knee muscles. Yoga for knee pain helps stabilize the knee and strengthens the muscles such as the Vastus Medialis that support and hold the knee in correct alignment. These Yoga Aasanas also help stretch tight muscles (mainly outer hips and hip flexors) that can pull on the knee.
Mountain Pose, Triangle Pose, Warrior Pose (with certain modifications), Hero’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog are among the most prescribed Yoga postures for knee pain. Slow and controlled movement is suggested for the patient of chronic knee pain.
If back pain is less severe, Yoga may help to relieve it by strengthening the back, stretching it and improving the blood circulation to the spine and nerves. Uttanasana elongates the middle and lower back, stretches the hamstrings and calms the body. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) is also prescribed to relieve lower-body stiffness and combat fatigue.
Cat/Cow, Plow Pose, Spinal Twist, Child’s Pose, Triangle Pose, Downward Dog, Eagle Pose, Seated Forward Fold, Locust Pose and Bow Pose are other commonly recommended Hatha Yogas.
Bad postures and professions that require sitting for long hours cause strain in the neck muscles resulting in Cervicalgia. Additionally, long-stored physiological tension can contribute to a mild stiff neck or even a full-blown muscle spasm of the neck.
Certain yoga poses can help the sufferer stretch and strengthen his neck by correcting his posture. Child Pose, Reclining Twist, Cat Pose, Legs-up-the-wall Pose, Extended Triangle Pose and Corpse Pose are among commonly prescribed yoga poses that have therapeutic effects on the neck.