Dealing with pain is exhausting. Not only do you have to be hyper aware of movements, positions and activities that may increase your pain, but at the same time, you are likely not sleeping well. This excessive attention from the brain takes both mental, and physical energy. Your brain starts to reorganize. Larger and more diverse sections of the brain will start to devote themselves to tracking your symptoms. Once more of your brain is dedicated to your pain, your nervous system goes on high alert. Activities, movements, even thoughts that wouldn’t usually trigger pain, now add to your experience of pain. And guess what? You now have even more trouble sleeping and getting a good night’s rest. We need that rest for the healing process. This cycle of pain and fatigue is hard to break. The good news is that we have evidence to support that yoga can be helpful to manage chronic pain. Not only the physical practice of asana, but breathing exercises, concentration exercises, systematic relaxation and meditation are all useful in training the brain to be less attentive to feed the cycle of chronic pain.
A study by Wren et al in Pain 2011 examined nine randomized control trials that looked at the efficacy of yoga for persistent pain.The authors concluded that yoga changes the pain experience by reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, reducing inflammatory markers in the body, improving cardiorespiratory function, increases the frequency of positive emotions and reduces the impact of negative emotion. The good news is that yoga is accessible to everyone, is safe if performed correctly, and can be practiced in a group or at home alone. I’ve recorded a short systematic relaxation exercise called Point to Point breathing that can be used to help to relax the body and mind. Try out this recording and see if you find it helpful to reduce your pain or improve your ability to relax.
If you are a healthcare provider and want to learn more about how yoga can be effective for managing chronic pain, join us July 21-22 for our next Yoga Therapeutics for Managing Chronic Pain Course. 12 CEU’s/ CCE’s can be earned for continuing education credit. No prior yoga experience is necessary. Click here for more information and a link to register for our courses.
Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, E-RYT 200
Reference: Wren, A. A., Wright, M. A., Carson, J. W., & Keefe, F. J. (2011). Yoga for persistent pain: new findings and directions for an ancient practice. Pain, 152(3), 477-480.

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