Many chronic pain sufferers prefer to look for ways to manage their pain without relying too much on medication. One way to accomplish this goal is with exercise that strengthens core muscle groups and promotes the release of internal chemicals that naturally ease pain. But when it becomes too difficult to participate in traditional exercises, relief could be experienced with yoga.
Yoga Eases Stress
Chronic pain isn’t just physical. Emotional stress can also play a role in how pain is perceived. A big part of yoga involves controlled breathing, relaxation, and mental focus. Being less stressed also reduces amounts of the “stress hormone” cortisol, which can also help lower blood sugar levels for individuals with chronic pain aggravated by underling issues with diabetes. Many different yoga positions are designed with relaxation in mind. The eagle pose, for instance, requires the mind to focus on a single object. Doing so can ease shoulder and hip tension.
It Can Help with Posture
Some chronic pain conditions are the result of years of misalignment and related problems from poor posture. This is often the case with recurring pain in the lower back or neck. With yoga, participants are taught to maintain correct posture while assuming various poses. Performed while standing with the feet hip width apart as the shoulder blades go back, the mountain pose is a yoga position that automatically creates the optimal position for perfect posture. The tree, cat cow, and downward-facing dog poses may be equally helpful.
Yoga May Correct Scoliosis
An abnormal curvature of the spine known as scoliosis is a condition that can contribute to chronic pain if the issue doesn’t correct itself during adolescence. There’s research suggesting that the side plank pose may significantly correct this abnormality. It’s a pose that involves balancing the body’s upper weight on an outstretched arm while retaining alignment with the lower body. A knee can be used for added support with a modified side plank.
It Can Improve Sleep Patterns
According to research cited by the National Sleep Foundation, only 37 percent of people with chronic pain report good or very good sleep quality. A lack of recuperative sleep can also prevent tissues from properly healing and make chronic discomfort more noticeable during waking hours. Performing deep, relaxing yoga poses shortly before bedtime may calm the mind and body enough to improve sleep patterns. Yoga (guided meditation) may also be beneficial for chronic pain sufferers experiencing sleep difficulties.
Another appealing benefit of yoga for chronic pain management is the many variations with poses and techniques. For instance, Bikram yoga (“hot yoga”) involves a series of 26 poses performed in a heated room. Some patients report improvements with joint flexibility following sessions. Yoga can even be performed in heated pool by patients wishing to take advantage of the natural buoyancy of water while still enjoying the mind-body benefits of this ancient discipline.