Tag Archives: Back pain

How Can Yoga Help You?

YogaSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

Those of us have seen photos of yogis performing the ultimate in yoga poses may be intimidated to try a class. Many may be interested in yoga but think of themselves as unable to do the poses for a variety of reasons. The truth is, you don’t have to be an expert, young, physically fit, or an ideal weight to experience the many mental, physical and relaxation benefits of a regular yoga practice. All yoga poses are adaptable to different skill levels and a good instructor will know how to use the right props that enable you to get the most benefit out of each pose. Unlike a ballet studio, a typical yoga studio will not have mirrors, as the class is not about comparing yourself to others or being part of a troupe. It’s about improving your own flexibility, strength and balance, reducing stress and centering on your own mindfulness, health and wellbeing. The idea is to explore your own limits to challenge yourself physically without feeling overwhelmed. Poses are intended to align your body and the practice helps you to get in touch with your inner self.

If the idea of a class is too overwhelming, there are numerous tools available that make it easy to practice in the comfort of your own home. It’s okay to start slowly, as adding just a few simple poses to your daily routine can provide some health boosting benefits. While there are many branches of yoga, most sessions typically include breathing exercises (pranayamas), getting into and holding poses (asanas), and finishing with a restful meditation period (savasana). Whatever type you choose should provide relaxation benefits without causing stress or pain. For sure, yoga is not like running on the treadmill or lifting weights at the gym. Yoga is mind/body exercise that can help with reducing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, while providing a respite from our everyday overly busy lives.

Yoga has been practiced for 5,000 years, and is widely accepted as a safe and effective alternative therapeutic exercise. It may only take a few months before you begin to see the benefits of daily practice. Regular practice will indeed strengthen and lengthen the muscles, lower heart rate and blood pressure, increase endurance and improve the quality of life for everyone. Yoga has been shown to have a positive impact on those suffering with depression, chronic illness, arthritis or back pain.

Positive body image – Because yoga promotes an inner awareness rather than outward appearance, those who practice yoga regularly are found to be more satisfied with and are less critical of their bodies. Yoga has become part of the treatment for eating disorders and programs that are designed to promote self-esteem and positive body image.

Back Pain – Numerous studies have found that yoga is often effective in reducing chronic back pain, improving back function and creating greater spinal flexibility. Many yoga postures strengthen the back and the abdominal muscles, essential components of the muscular network of the spine. Conditioning these muscles can help to greatly reduce back pain. The stretching and relaxation techniques promote flexibility in muscles and joints, increasing blood flow and allowing nutrients to flow into the area, while letting toxins flow out.

Anxiety and Depression – Studies have shown that healthy people who practice yoga can achieve a more positive outlook on life and develop coping skills. While other physical activities play a role in physical and psychological health, stretching, balancing and strengthening our body’s core muscles all contribute to optimal wellbeing. Researchers have found that yoga is an effective way to alleviate depression and anxiety. Anxiety disorders and depression, the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., are typically treated with pharmaceuticals which treat the symptoms but can have negative side effects. Research on yoga as a therapeutic tool shows evidence that yoga can help treat depression and anxiety though accessing the mind-body connection and changing the patterns of negative self-talk and obsessions.

Cardiovascular benefits – Several studies have found that yoga has a positive effect on blood pressure for people who have hypertension and may also help to improve lipid profiles. Yoga’s stress relieving benefits contribute to good overall and cardiac health, and may offer tremendous benefits in the management of acute emotional distress after a cardiac incident.  The breathing exercises are also thought to improve cardio-respiratory fitness. The American Heart Association recommends continued yoga practice as a preventative measure for long term heart health, and for recovery from cardiac arrest.

Weight loss and maintenance – Researchers have found that those who practice yoga have lower BMI’s, which may be attributed to a state of mindfulness that carries over to a more positive relationship with food and healthy eating. Those who begin at a healthy weight are more likely to maintain their weight. The surprising thing is that the poses don’t have to be difficult to aid weight management. Not surprisingly, yoga helps to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, positively affecting belly fat.

Stress management – By incorporating meditation and mindful breathing, yoga helps to improve metal wellbeing, increase calmness, relieve chronic stress, relax the mind, and improve mental clarity. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, yoga has a demonstrated ability to lower cortisol levels. Similar to the way an adaptogen works, yoga brings the body into balance and can help to normalize cortisol levels that are either too high or too low. Yoga reduces muscle tension and relaxes the mind, helping to deactivate the stress response.

References:
11 Unexpected Health-Promoting Benefits of Yoga. http://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness-pictures/10-surprising-health-perks-of-yoga.aspx
What Yoga Can and Can’t Do for You. http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/1230what-yoga-can-and-cant-do-for-you.aspx
Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat
Yoga and Heart Health. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Yoga-and-Heart-Health_UCM_434966_Article.jsp
Yoga for anxiety and depression. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
Destress with Yoga. http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/beginner-s-bliss/

Ice vs. Heat

IceHeatJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

 

 

Perhaps it’s time to clear up confusion about whether to apply ice, heat or both intermittently to relieve aches, pains and injuries. These minimal risk, self-treatment therapies are noninvasive, inexpensive, effective and readily available. But, sometimes we’re just not really sure about the how, when or why of icing or warming. Whether to use cold or heat therapies often depends on whether the pain is acute, chronic persistent or recurrent. In general, ice the affected area when there is acute pain, injury, swelling or inflammation. For muscle pain, chronic pain and older injuries, apply heat. With certain types of pain, such as arthritic pain, either heat or cold may help. Some studies have shown that heat provides more relief to someone suffering with back or neck pain, as muscles respond well to heat while ice can aggravate muscle spasms.

When to use ice or cryotherapy:

For recent injuries less than 48 hours old, ice packs can help minimize swelling, reduce internal bleeding and reduce tissue trauma. Cold narrows the blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the area, which reduces swelling and inflammation and provides a numbing effect for pain relief. Icing is good for chronic overuse, repetitive strain or tissue fatigue injuries such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, or shin splints. Cold therapy is great for bruises, sprains, strains and swollen, sensitive and inflamed areas. Ice or cold packs may also be used after activity for overuse injuries to help control inflammation.

When to use heat or thermotherapy:

Heat works well for non-inflammatory body pain and is useful for chronic conditions to relieve muscle pain and stiff, painful arthritic joints. Applying heat encourages circulation to the affected area, increasing blood flow and decreasing lactic acid buildup, which can contribute to pain. Heat helps to relax or loosen muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments, alleviating both pain and stiffness. Heat treatment for recurrent pain helps open blood vessels, which transport oxygen and nutrients that promote healing. Warmth can help to increase range of motion and improve flexibility. Warm, not hot, heating pads, microwaveable gel packs or bath soaks all provide good sources of relief for muscle spasms or pain.

Acute injury – For sudden, traumatic injuries, ice the affected area as soon as possible for 10 minutes at a time, allowing skin temperature to return to normal between icings. Icing can be repeated several times daily for 2-3 days.

Chronic sports injuries – To prevent further injury, apply moist heat to loosen injured muscles and joints before activity or stretching. To minimize pain and reduce inflammation, ice affected areas immediately after exercising.

Arthritis – Icing newly inflamed joints helps to control pain and minimize inflammation. Moist heat can ease joint stiffness or relax tight muscles around the joints. Some prefer to use heat in the morning to relieve stiffness and then ice in the evening to reduce inflammation related to the day’s activities.

Gout – Use ice as soon as possible to calm acute gout flare-ups, reduce swelling and numb pain if the pressure is not unbearable. Elevate the affected area and take medication as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Tendonitis – For acute irritation, use ice to relieve inflammation, reduce initial swelling and numb pain. After 48 hours or for chronic irritation, use heat after inflammation resolves to relieve stiffness.

Headaches – Cold packs can help relieve a migraine headache. Heat applied to tight muscles in the neck or jaw may help relieve tension headaches. Some prefer to alternate ice and heat in 5 minute increments beginning with cold to ease headache pain.

Back pain – Lower back pain is often the result of strains or over-exertions, which creates tension in the muscles and soft tissues. To relieve pain from muscle spasms and tightness, apply dry or moist heat.

Sometimes it comes down to personal preference or trial and error as to which of these simple pain management methods provides you with the most relief. When in doubt, check with your healthcare provider. It’s important to note that both therapies may carry small risks when used improperly or excessively. Keep safety in mind, as both heat and ice can burn the skin when not carefully administered. Some cautionary notes:

  • Heat should not be applied when swelling is present, after an acute injury or if skin is red or hot to the touch
  • Protect your skin against direct contact with heating devices
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated during heat therapy
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to systemic heat therapy
  • Don’t use heat therapy while sleeping
  • Those with poor circulation or diabetes should avoid applying heat
  • Don’t ice for more than 20 minutes at one time and keep the ice pack moving to avoid ice burn or tissue damage
  • Give your body tissues time to warm up between repeated icing sessions
  • Protect your affected areas from direct contact with ice packs
  • Ice should not be applied to chronic injuries before activity
  • If skin turns bright red, remove the heat or ice pack
  • Don’t use ice or heat therapy in the presence of infection or on areas of the body with poor circulation or on areas of skin with poor sensation to heat or cold

Available at Professional Supplement Center:

Sports Pack with StrapSports Pack by Thera°Pearl – This convenient, doctor-designed sports pack conforms to your body and provides therapeutic heat or cold treatments. Pop in freezer for analgesic cold or warm in microwave for penetrating heat. This durable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, reusable pack holds its temperature for a full 20 minutes to provide fast, soothing relief for sore muscles, pre- or post-workout therapy, menstrual cramps, joint pain and stiffness and accidental injuries. Available with or without strap. Dimensions: 7.5” by 4.5”.

References:
Heat for Pain. https://www.painscience.com/articles/heating.php
Heat or Cold for Chronic Muscle Pain? http://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/using-cold-and-heat.aspx
Ice vs. Heat Confusion Debacle. https://www.painscience.com/articles/ice-heat-confusion.php
Ice Vs. Heat. What’s Better For Your Pain? http://www.medicaldaily.com/ice-heat-pain-treatment-arthritis-373156
Icing for Injuries, Tendonitis and Inflammation. https://www.painscience.com/articles/icing.php
When to Use Hot and Cold Therapy. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4483
Should You Ice or Heat an Injury? http://www.scoi.com/patient-resources/health-articles/should-you-ice-or-heat-injury