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Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Date:9/8/2009

an cause people to stop exercising because of discomfort or fear of causing further injury to their back. The lack of activity can cause the back muscles to become "de-conditioned," or weakened, setting up conditions for even more chronic pain.

Exercises such as yoga help reverse the muscle weakness by strengthening muscles of the mid-section, including the back extensors, abdominals and gluteus, which are key for stabilizing the trunk and decreasing the load on the spine.

"Strengthening those muscles is like creating a brace around your torso," Albert explained.

Lower back pain represents between 20 percent and 25 percent of medical claims and exceeds $34 billion in annual direct medical costs, according to background information in the study.

Mary Lou Galantino, a professor of physical therapy at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, said the study confirms previous research about the benefits of yoga for helping with conditions as varied as menopause and osteoarthritis. Other research has shown that yoga can improve mood in women with breast cancer.

"There is so much data excitingly pointing to the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of yoga," Galantino said. "I also believe there's a social aspect to yoga. It can foster a sense of community and overarching well-being."

Though strengthening the back is important, so are the spiritual and psychological aspects of yoga, including meditation and deep breathing, Galantino said.

"In order to have a holistic approach to one's well being, you want to get to the physical, the psychological, the emotional and the spiritual," said Galantino, a yoga instructor. "That is integrated care. If done with proper breathing, postures and meditation, yoga does all of that. You have to have all of the elements. If we westernize it and make it solely an athletic program, then you may not receive all of the benefits."

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