Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates


Coping With Back Pain: Yoga Moves to Stretch and Tone

Jacob Hendricks had been active his entire life. He was on the varsity soccer team in high school, enjoyed ski vacations with his family, and even ran a marathon the day before his wedding. But the car accident changed everything.

Luckily, Jacob survived the collision with a drunk driver, but he sustained a herniated disc during the accident. After neurosurgery and physical therapy, Jacob’s back pain has largely dissipated, but his doctors advised him to take it easy for a few more months. Jacob wants to be active and in shape, but doesn’t want to push his back too far.

If you have sustained a back injury or suffer from back pain, you may feel like Jacob—unable to enjoy the active lifestyle you once had. Luckily, you don’t have to sit around and wait for the back pain to go away. In fact, you don’t even have to give up the exercise you love. The answer is simple: yoga.


This form of exercise originated in second century India as a way to unite spirit, mind, and body. Today, it is practiced by millions. Yoga includes medication, breathing exercises, and postures that flex and stretch various muscle groups. It can have an enormously soothing effect on those who need to de-stress and relax, and don’t worry—you don’t need to be an expert to get a good workout.

Actually, many people consider yoga to be a “fluffy” exercise—a cop-out for people who don’t really want to feel the burn. If you think this way, pull out a mat and try a couple of moves. You’ll be surprised by how effective yoga can be in strengthening your core and toning muscles.

Eliminating Back Pain

For those with back pain, yoga is a perfect solution: after all, it increases flexibility, muscle strength and tone, and respiration. Relaxation techniques taught in yoga can help you lessen chronic pain. Many people are frustrated by the weight gain and muscle loss that often comes while recovering from an injury, but yoga can even help you lose weight and maintain your metabolism.

If you’re looking for long-term health effects, don’t just do yoga once—make it a part of your lifestyle. Yoga classes are available at most local recreation centers at a very low cost. There are also fantastic apps and exercise videos available online that can help you master yoga moves and decrease your back pain.  

Simple Yoga Postures to Eliminate Back Pain

In the meantime, try these three yoga postures:

1. Hamstring Stretch

Lie down flat on your back. Bend your left knee to your chest, place a rolled-up towel or strap around the arch of your foot, and then slowly extend your leg straight up until your leg is at a 90 degree angle to the floor. (Tip: if this exercise strains your lower back painfully, bend your right leg and place your foot flat on the ground. This should lessen the pressure on your back.) Hold the pose for three minutes, then practice the posture with your right leg.

2. Pidgeon

Crouch on your hands and knees. Raise your right knee and bring it close to your right wrist. Align your right foot with your left hip. Stretch your left leg out behind you and point your toes. Make sure that your hips stay parallel to the floor, and slowly stretch your arms ahead of you so that your body comes closer to your right leg.

As you bend forward, place your hands on top of each other and place your forehead on top. See how close you can bring your body to your right leg and to the floor. Hold this pose for three minutes, then practice the posture with your left leg under you.

3. Thread the Needle

Lie down flat on your back. Bend your knees and keep your feet on the floor. Raise your right knee until your thigh points toward the ceiling and your calf is perpendicular to the floor. With both hands, grasp your thigh. Keep your shoulders and back on the floor if possible.

Now, raise your left leg and place your left ankle on your right leg (your left leg will make a figure four shape and should be perpendicular to your body). Hold the pose for two minutes, then practice the posture with your right leg pointing out.

Remember Jacob Hendricks? He began yoga so he could keep himself toned and in shape while he recovered from his herniated disk. He discovered that yoga did much more than keep him in shape—it also helped him deal with back pain.

As you practice yoga at home or in a class, you’ll find that your increased flexibility and strengthened core will also help you manage pain. For more advice about how to deal with back pain, contact your neurosurgeon today.

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