Many people associate chiropractic with back and neck pain relief, with good reason.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA), defines chiropractic services as those “used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.”
Similarly, practicing yoga offers benefits related to flexibility, muscle strength, energy, balance, overall physical health, enhanced athletic performance, and protection from injury, as well as mental health perks, according to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
Separately, each modality helps restore and maintain good health but what might the two protocols accomplish together?
The 2016 Yoga in America study, a joint effort between the Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, highlights the growing popularity of the practice. The study reports that the United States currently has more than 36 million yoga practitioners and annual spending on classes, clothing equipment, and accessories is approximately $16 billion.
People are often turning to yoga for its health perks, which has been demonstrated through research. A study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) showed a reduction in low back pain and depression after practicing yoga for six months.
Another 2015 study noted that Iyengar yoga is an effective short-term solution for back and neck pain, although long-term effects were yet to be determined. A third study asserts that Iyengar yoga produced an 87 percent reduction in nonspecific back pain and improvement in quality of life over general exercise.
Now that a greater portion of the population practice yoga, some of whom may also receive chiropractic treatment, Jasper Sidhu, BSc, DC, encourages chiropractors to understand how yoga affects the musculoskeletal system. He indicates that it’s “important to identify which [yoga variation] your patient is doing,” noting that Iyengar1 yoga has been shown effective for low back pain (as noted above) where as hatha2 yoga addresses flexibility and arthritis.
Sidhu explains that different yoga poses have an influence on “muscle activation,” so having some basic knowledge is useful in evaluating which ones your client is doing and how they are affecting his physical health and chiropractic treatment.
Colin Russell, owner, Cary Flow Yoga, promotes the combination of yoga and chiropractic for his clients. “Motion and balance are two necessities to creating and maintaining a healthy life. Both chiropractic and yoga focus on these,” he says in a blog post. “Chiropractic helps restore proper motion to the spine and yoga continues that by increasing range of motion, flexibility and joint strength.”
Yoga for rehab
While chiropractic helps to properly align the spine and maximizes the function of the nervous system and enhances balance, yoga intensifies those benefits, according to Russell. He recommends clients take yoga class three times per week at a minimum and asserts that this regimen “makes his job easier and makes clients much happier and healthier.”
Richard M. Davidson, chiropractic physician and certified Pilates instructor, offers some suggestions for yoga poses that specifically address back issues. He says, “The good news is that a sound yoga routine for your back can help alleviate pain and strengthen muscles for support. Yoga has proven to help heal back pain and prevent reoccurring pain more than traditional treatments alone.”
Rehab yoga poses
Davidson recommends these poses to relieve pain and strengthen your back:
- Child’s Pose – Spread your knees wide with big toes touching; bring your chest and forehead to the mat and relax your arms either overhead or at your side. Breathe deeply and feel a stretch in your hips, back, and thighs.
- Cat/Cow Pose – Kneel on the mat with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Inhale and lift your head up, dropping your belly down. Exhale and round your back and shoulders. Repeat to warm up the core and back.
- Downward Facing Dog Pose – Begin on your hands and knees and push back, straightening your arms and reaching your tailbone high. Shift your weight into the palm of the hands, stretch your spine long and soften your ankles.
Sidhu suggests that any chiropractor who’d like to expand business might want to consider adding yoga to its portfolio of services.
- Iyengar yoga incorporates the use of props, such as blocks, straps and pillows, to enable individuals to sustain postures longer.
- Hatha yoga can refer to any of the yoga techniques and is “designed to align and calm your body, mind and spirit in preparation for meditation.”