“No pain, no gain’ is a much-heard-of adage, but try saying that and you will perhaps be treated to a painful slap and some colourful language. It is such a weird statement also – what is there to gain from chronic pain? Nothing, except misery, frustration and irritability.
Chronic pain is one of the major health issues that may seriously affect your daily physical activities and quality of life (1). A recent survey conducted by the National Health Interview resulted that about 25.3 million U.S adults had pain every day for three consecutive months (2).
Feeling irregular pain may be natural but chronic pain is definitely not. If you are among the tormented souls who are suffering from such chronic pains and are fed up of trying out every hack in your effort to overcome it, then you may need to think of something more powerful.
Oh, no! It is not about starting something hard and complex, it is just a simple practice to manage chronic pain in a structured manner. Before you dismiss what we are going to suggest to tackle your pain issues as hogwash, remember that the oriental practice of yoga has converted many people into believers the world over! Yoga is helpful in stimulating healthy joint functions, low back pain, and many other types of chronic pain conditions (3).
Before doing any sort of Yoga practices, it is important to understand the possible benefits of each Yoga Asanas. And we are not going to do this based on hearsay, but on science-backed information.
Role of Yoga in Relieving Chronic Pain
Before you go any further, here is a caveat: Yoga is not a quick-fix solution. But, a regular practise of this ancient Indian form may help provide numerous health benefits such as enhanced body flexibility and muscular strength, stimulated healthy joint functions, reduced depression, stress, anxiety, and chronic pain (4).
Those that live with it on a daily basis know that the experience of pain is real. It has a biological basis. Practicing yoga regularly enhances the grey matter in the brain that may help people to modulate pain better (5). The insula grey matter in our brain has amazing pain tolerance properties (6, 7).
Some studies have shown that Yoga restrains chronic pain on a neural level, leading to a change in the gray matter volume in the brain (8, 9). Thus, Yoga has positive effects on reducing pain and improving physical health (10).
A healthy body is essential for a clear mind. When a person is physically healthy, he/she can have a more focused and stress-free mind. It may positively affect your overall health including physical, mental, spiritual, social health, and self-realization (11).
You are now aware of Yoga and its deep relationship with pain management. While the learning of yoga and its practice is life-long, there are certain yogic postures to open up your body and train your being to struggle with chronic pain more successfully.
Yoga Breathing for Managing Chronic Pain
Many of us come to yoga as “chest breathers,” meaning we’re accustomed to an unhealthy pattern of initiating the breath from the chest, which can be agitating. Isolated upper chest breathing makes you overuse the muscles in the chest and the upper body and underuse the diaphragm. During heavy exercise and in emergency situations, you need these muscles of the upper body. They function to supplement the diaphragm because they move the rib cage up and down more vigorously, thereby letting more air into the lungs. While the diaphragm can work tirelessly, overusing the chest muscles gets them (and you) exhausted easily. So instead of having a rejuvenating and restorative result, upper chest breathing leaves you feeling fatigued. Yogis refrain from upper chest breathing and use the diaphragm instead. It is one of the effective techniques for relaxing the mind and improving both physical and mental health (12). Basically, performing yoga asanas allows more oxygen into your blood and helps manage essential energy, which then calms the mind (13).
Plus, diaphragm breathing is also known for having amazing pain management benefits, and reduction in depression, anxiety and stress conditions (12).
You may start by doing Pranayama exercise to control your breathing.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist Pose)
This easy yoga pose is one of the most relaxing exercises that may help in managing chronic pain, especially back pain (14).
A study has confirmed that people who practice Ardha Matsyendrasana may notice a significant decrease in fasting glucose level and important changes in insulin levels (15). This asana energises the spine and stimulates the digestive fire. This asana must be practiced either first thing in the morning or at least four to six hours after a meal. Your stomach and bowels must be empty when you practice this asana. The food must be digested so that there is enough energy to expend during the practice.
Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
The Eagle pose has a lot of health benefits such as reduction in chronic pain, lessen sciatica and rheumatism (16, 17). It is good for stretching the upper back and strengthens the calves, as well as eliminating the cramps in calf muscles (16, 18).
Practice this in the morning for 10-15 min every day, on an empty stomach.
Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
This is also known as the butterfly or bound angle pose, is a seated pose that eases tension in your hips and groin area (19). The open hips joined by the feet and the up and down movements resemble the stance of a butterfly in motion. While it is extremely simple, it has a whole lot of benefits to its credit. It strengthens the hips, legs, lower back and abdomen and also stretches the knees, thighs and groin.
It is good to perform this asana in the morning with other yoga practices. Also, make sure to maintain a focus on your breathing.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)
This is also good for managing chronic pain, and it provides other health benefits such as increasing healthy blood flow and circulation (19, 20). This asana, being a restorative pose, allows the blood to circulate to every part of the body. Therefore, it helps relieve just about any ailment.
It is exactly as it sounds. You can lie on the back with your sit-bones close to the wall and extend your leg up the wall. Do this for a few minutes a day.
Yoga practices may help bring a lot of health benefits for both your mind and body (as mentioned above). But, keep in mind that no exercise can be a complete substitute for medicine. For better results, it is good to learn and practice Yoga under the supervision of a trained Yoga teacher. With the help of proper guidance, it may become quite easy for you to manage your body pain.
We want you to get the best solution to maintain you in the pink of health. This is why we are giving away this FREE EBook that explores deeply the secrets of pain management and how you can win the battle over pain using Yoga. Click on the button below to get your copy today!
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements and/or product(s) described in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease, illness or health condition. It is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or dietary supplement program.
- Dueñas, María et al. “A review of chronic pain impact on patients, their social environment and the health care system” Journal of pain research. 9: (2016): 457-67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4935027/
- “Chronic Pain: In Depth”. NIH. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm
- “Yoga for pain relief”. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/yoga-for-pain-relief
- Woodyard, Catherine. “Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life” International journal of yoga. 4:2 (2011): 49-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
- Villemure, Chantal et al. “Insular cortex mediates increased pain tolerance in yoga practitioners” Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). 24:10 (2013): 2732-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4153807/
- Apkarian, A Vania et al. “Pain and the brain: specificity and plasticity of the brain in clinical chronic pain” Pain. 152:3 Suppl (2010): S49-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3045648/
- Rodriguez-Raecke, Rea et al. “Structural brain changes in chronic pain reflect probably neither damage nor atrophy” PloS one. 8:2 (2013): e54475. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566164/
- Froeliger, Brett et al. “Yoga meditation practitioners exhibit greater gray matter volume and fewer reported cognitive failures: results of a preliminary voxel-based morphometric analysis” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2012 (2012): 821307. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3525089/
- Robinson, Michael E et al. “Gray matter volumes of pain-related brain areas are decreased in fibromyalgia syndrome” journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society. 12:4 (2010): 436-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070837/
- Kan, Laidi et al. “The Effects of Yoga on Pain, Mobility, and Quality of Life in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2016 (2016): 6016532. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5061981/
- Yadav, Sunil Kumar, et al. “Importance of yoga in daily life.” ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/278673574_IMPORTANCE_OF_YOGA_IN_DAILY_LIFE
- Ma, Xiao et al. “The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults” Frontiers in psychology. 8:874 (2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/
- Hakked, Chirag Sunil et al. “Yogic breathing practices improve lung functions of competitive young swimmers” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine. 8:2 (2017): 99-104. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5496990/
- Vallath, Nandini. “Perspectives on yoga inputs in the management of chronic pain” Indian journal of palliative care. 16:1 (2010): 1-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2936076/
- Balaji, P A et al. “Physiological effects of yogic practices and transcendental meditation in health and disease” North American journal of medical sciences. 4:10 (2012): 442-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/
- Gothe, Neha P and Edward McAuley. “Yoga Is as Good as Stretching-Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial” journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. 71:3 (2015): 406-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864160/
- Wainapel, Stanley F et al. “Integrating complementary/alternative medicine into primary care: evaluating the evidence and appropriate implementation” International journal of general medicine. 8: (2015): 361-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4676622/
- Golec de Zavala, Agnieszka et al. “Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to ‘Power Poses’” Frontiers in psychology. 8:752 (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5425577/
- “Yoga for better sleep”. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/8753-201512048753
- Evans, Subhadra et al. “Iyengar yoga and the use of props for pediatric chronic pain: a case study” Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 19:5 (2013): 66-70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3836371/