20 million people in the U.S. experience severe chronic pain. The issue is so harsh that it interferes with their day-to-day lives. Add another 30 million people suffering from less severe symptoms, and you have whopping 50 million people throughout the country that are in constant pain.

While pain often stems from underlying chronic health conditions, chronic pain itself is now considered a major health concern emerging at alarming rates.

The good news is, yoga may be able to help sufferers alleviate their discomfort. We will be discussing the following types: Viniyoga, Lyengar Yoga, Yin Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga.

Yoga for Chronic Pain

What is Yoga?

Think back to 5,000 years ago in India. You will find yoga, a specific set of movements that place an emphasis on wellbeing. The practice promotes wellbeing on all physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. The ultimate goal? To live an enriched life and to reach higher levels of awareness and personal fulfillment.

Yoga combines the elements of various types of postures, a number of breathing techniques, and an emphasis on relaxation and/or meditation to achieve its goals.

Fast forward to today, and were still using the practice for the same reasons. Yogis, physical therapists, and other health practitioners are utilizing these same techniques to help individuals reach their very best. And it has spread worldwide.

But before we discuss the types of yoga that are best for pain, let’s study pain so we have a better understanding of why yoga works.

Chronic Pain Explained

Pain stems from a signal within the nervous system that there is an issue within the body. It may be described as a “tingle”, “ache”, “burning sensation”, “sting”, or as a “pins and needles” feeling. It can be sharp or it may come on as dull. It may hit out of nowhere.

Those that suffer from pain constantly are described as having “chronic pain”. This type of pain may last for days, weeks, months, and may even be experienced for years.

Originally, an illness or injury could have been the underlying cause. In some instances, there is an ongoing cause – such as arthritis or high levels of inflammation. Many have no clear indication of the underlying cause.

Chronic Pain Impedes Daily Life

A Clear Public Health Concern

Chronic pain is a serious issue in the United States. It is estimated that it results in excess of $560 billion annually in medical care costs, loss of productivity in the workplace, and the issuance of disability-related services.

Individuals that suffer from chronic pain experience a lot of problems – on top of their discomfort.

They often find that it interferes with their day-to-day lives, causes them financial issues due to the inability to go to work, increases the risk for anxiety and depression, may lead to a dependence on opioids, and drastically reduces their quality of life.

You can clearly understand why it is essential to create a pain management program that helps relieve chronic pain to some degree at the very least.

The Goals of Chronic Pain Treatment

The goals of treating those that suffer from chronic pain differ on a case by case basis. They also depend on the type of pain that is being experienced, the underlying health conditions of the sufferer, and patient goals.

In terms of chronic pain, the cause may be very difficult to determine. While pain relief is obviously one of the primary goals, the other goals include helping to improve the overall functionality of the sufferer and provide a boost to their quality of life.

Additionally, the prevention of other issues from developing is also a priority. The following are also very important goals when it comes to chronic pain treatment:

  1. Treating Any Developing/Developed Disabilities
  2. Behavioral Therapy to Enhance the Ability to Cope and Boost the Mood
  3. Helping a Sufferer Increase Their Ability to Perform Activities of Daily Living
Yoga Helps Chronic Pain

How Does Yoga Help Chronic Pain Sufferers?

It has been established that chronic pain has the capability of triggering unique changes within the structure of the brain.

When these changes occur, it results in the onset of anxiety, depression, and impaired levels of cognitive functioning.

Research has recently determined that yoga has the exact opposite effect when it comes to the brain.

As a result, participating in yoga has the ability to help people experience relief from chronic pain.

By engaging in mind-body practices such as yoga chronic pain has been found to be prevented and even reversed.

Researchers have been studying the brain with special imaging to determine the volume of the gray matter and the overall integrity of the white matter. In most instances, those that have experienced brain changes due to chronic pain are found to have a larger insular cortex.

Yoga helps to strengthen the gray matter and white matter through neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, respectively.

As participants engage in yoga, the overall size of the insular cortex seems to decrease. Yoga practitioners are also said to have increases in the amount of pain that they are able to tolerate and their overall pain threshold.

Types of Yoga

There are several types of yoga that have been found effective in relieving chronic pain. The following outlines the most popular choices among instructors, patients, and those in the medical field that believe in the effectiveness of the practice.

Viniyoga

Viniyoga is a highly comprehensive and very thorough transmission of a number of yoga teachings. This chronic pain therapeutic approach focuses on the processes of self-discovery and that of transformation.

Common areas of focus include muscular activation, the regulation of breathing, making sounds and/or chanting, as well as relaxation.

The strategies utilized are designed to address the chronic pain sufferer as a whole. It teaches the physiology of pain and the role that yoga plays in addressing it. Energy levels are increased and the nervous system is calmed.

Lyengar Yoga

Often described as the “practice of precision”, lyengar yoga focuses on bringing anatomical details and the specific body alignment of certain body postures to light.

It is an excellent means of strengthening the body.

Participants focus on holding certain positions for extended periods of time.

This type of yoga may integrate props for assistance.

Participants often find that they have higher levels of flexibility, improved stability, and a heightened sense of awareness – all of which help soothe the systems of the body and eliminate chronic pain.

Yin Yoga

The yin yoga technique is designed to place stress on the connective tissues within the body, as well as the bones.

It is performed by gently stressing the body and helping it to unwind.

It looks as if it takes a lot of strength or a high level of flexibility, but does not; however, its physiological and psychological effects are profound.

It opens up the different components on the inside of the body. In a sense, it allows for the “breathing” of these components.

It focuses on teaching trust in those with chronic pain. It allows the practitioner to explore their bodies and release the pain that burdens them on a daily basis.

Ashtanga Yoga

This is a strenuous form of yoga that may be used to help chronic pain patients who want to heal from their burden.

Patients may experience some degree of discomfort.

The practice focuses on the reorganizing and the recalibration of the tension and the pain patterns that occur with the tissues, bones, and other components of the body.

Tension has been directly associated with health.

While an extremely difficult form of yoga, this technique is often considered to be exceptionally beneficial for those that suffer from chronic pain.

If you have injuries or have suffered an illness, it is best to only perform this type of yoga after healing.

The Viable, Drug-Free Solution

According to research, most of the pharmacological treatments issued to those with chronic pain are opioid-based. These treatments are designed to simply treat the symptoms of chronic pain, not the underlying cause. They are also very expensive and highly addictive.

Yoga is a non-pharmacological, natural approach that is designed to heal the entire body. If you suffer from chronic pain, yoga is a highly viable, drug-free solution.

When practicing, you just have to be very careful. You must work closely with a practitioner to ensure that the practice is right for you and your individual needs.

Additional Services for Chronic Pain

In addition to yoga, there are several other services available for those that suffer from chronic pain. These include rehabilitation and fitness, anti-gravity treadmill services, dry needling, and physical therapy services.

If you have chronic pain, there are options out there. You do not have to turn to potentially harmful medications or medical intervention techniques.

There are safe, effective natural approaches that may be used to align and adjust the body so that you experience relief. If you would like more information on these treatments, you may contact us here today at Back to Motion Physical Therapy by calling today.