BPS #042: Should You Do Yoga If Your Back Hurts?…

Hey guys, this is Robin Wakeham from the Back Pain Secrets podcast and today we’re going to talk about yoga.


More specifically if you got or can’t reduce your back pain, or heal your back pain, or if it’s dangerous and you shouldn’t do it at all. So guys, first off, I like yoga personally. I’ve done it on and off in my life and periods of my life and it has good benefits and it has some stuff or issues that you need to watch out for as well.


I’m just going to get that out in the open so you know what this episode is about. First off, there’s almost like 435 million people doing yoga. So it’s worldwide – It’s big and a lot of people love it, but there is some stuff that you need to be cautious about it. What y’all guys need to know about it, is that it’s basically a relaxation technique where you also have to do specific mood movements that strengthens your body which gives you stamina.


The breathing stuff is also a big thing with yoga. All in all, this is a treatment for yoga that has a lot of good stuff for your back, if you have chronic back pain but there’s a big but because there’s also stuff that you need to watch out for. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.


So first off, I’m going to have to tell the story, a backstory so you guys get some, connections with this. A few years back I had a patient in this room here and we can call him Chris and he was 25 years old. Chris was very athletic and he was very fit. He was into cross fit, martial arts and he was a good runner. He had been playing hockey when he was younger.


He was at his peak. So he came in because he was starting to experience back pain and neck pain. This stuff started when he doing yoga with his girlfriend. So a few weeks back before he came to meet me, he started to go to these yoga classes with his girlfriend. So that’s how they met and he was trying to impress her and he was a fit guy. He had a nice body and he had the six pack abs and all that.


So anyway, when he came in to my office and I started to examine him, I noticed that he was very flexible.Only a few of you guys, may have this condition when you’re twisting, you don’t really have a natural stop. You can bend as far as possible, and if you just cut out your elbow and your elbow doesn’t stop there and it goes up even further. Or you take your thumb like that and you twist it like that and you can almost bend it over to, the back.


Chances are that you have a condition where all your joints, have too much movement in them. So if you’re in a yoga class, that will look good in the beginning. But what happens is that you actually irritate your joints, your neck, your back, your hips, your knees, all of the joints that can create pain when you’re doing yoga. So if you have this condition, you can more or less twist your body in any position, then you shouldn’t really be doing yoga.


At least if your should do yoga, then don’t do all of the yoga exercises. What you should be doing is like lighter strengthening exercises at the gym.. So anyway, back to our story – Chris, was going to these yoga classes and he was starting to experience more and more back pain day by day. So he came in and he was, looking up a few of these yoga exercises.


I know most of them because , I’ve done yoga, but, it was very clear to me that he shouldn’t do yoga at all with the stuff that he was experiencing. By now he had radiation down his arms and he had constant neck pain. his lower back was, really painful. And he had radiation down his, left leg all the way down to his toes.


So I told him, “Hey Chris, you need to stop this shit. You need to stop, going to the yoga class. You should be walking. You should be standing up and you should be doing light strength exercises for a period of time, maybe three to six months. Don’t do this yoga stuff now, not at this time. You might be able to come back to it, but right now, just, pull on the handbrake.”


So, you know, when you’re 25 years old, you think, nothing can touch you and you’re immoral. So what Chris did, was he did the total opposite of what I told him to. He actually, told his girlfriend, I think her name was Beth and they had booked this big yoga trip down to India for two weeks.


But way back, six months ago, he actually went for that. So Chris and his girlfriend went to this yoga trip retreat for two weeks down in India. They were sleeping on floors. They were doing yoga like three, four hours a day. And when he came back from this trip, and I’m not kidding you guys, he could barely walk into my office. He was limping. I think he had a crutch with them, you know, and he was all messed up.


And mind you this is a guy that was like fit, super Fit, 25 years old and he’s at his peak of his physique and this yoga stuff just, destroyed his back and neck. So he comes into my office, he sits down and he’s almost in tears. Chris is almost crying because he can barely feel his leg.


He’s weakened his leg. He’s dropping stuff because he’s hands are all messed up. He has constant neck and back pain. So I tell him, “You go home, Chris, you need an MRI on your neck and your back. Because I think you have a few herniated discs in your neck and back. That’s actually one of the disc in your neck or back. It has ruptured and it runs out.”


It’s almost like toothpaste. That’s what it looks like. And its pressing on the nerves and this is what causes , this kind of pain. So he takes off, he goes up to the emergency room and they actually give him an MRI for his neck and back. It takes a few days to get the results. He comes back in and the MRI tests show that he has one big herniated disc at c five c six level here.


It’s a specific level in the neck and then also two herniated discs in his lower back. Big. Really big. So he’s off to work and he’s on painkillers and he’s in bad shape, So guys, I’m not telling you this to, in order for you not to do yoga. But my point around yoga still. I think it’s good.


But you need to make sure that if you perform yoga, you do it under the supervision of someone that actually knows what they’re talking about. It can’t be this super guru just telling you all kinds of stuff and you’re just listening and you’re not listening to your own body.


You need to listen to your own body. Definitely that, also a number two. You need to perform it gradually. You can’t go hardcore too quick.


So number three, if you have this condition where your body and your joints, are just bending too much that, you can do all kinds of twists very quick, then you might not really want to put too much of your time and effort into yoga because then you have the condition that can actually irritate your neck and back then you need to do light strength training.


So think about that. You can still do yoga, but don’t do it to the extreme, like it’s your only form of training. And if you’re doing the headstands, you definitely need to make sure that if you start to experience pain and you have radiation down your arms and it messes up with your neck, then you might want to keep off from that!


Avoid extreme stretches for a long period of time. You don’t need to think, just listen to your body. And if you’re starting to experience back pain, then you need to talk to the person having the group. But if they tell you just work, through the pain then, that’s bull crap. Then you need to just switch places. Find someone else or, or find some other exercise.


Guys take care. I love you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. And guys, remember you’re just one step away from healing your back pain. Take care. Bye. Bye.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.