Patients often ask about the practice of Yoga. Patients that suffer from back or neck pain, have undergone surgery, or are needing surgery want to know if yoga would help them improve their pain. Below is a recent question from on of my patients and my response.

Patient’s Question:

I would like to start yoga, but I am not sure if it would make my back condition worse, cause pain, or set back my recovery? Would Yoga be a good way for me to exercise?


Yoga can certainly help many patients, but yoga can also cause injury. First, it’s important to speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Back and abdominal muscles are essential components of the muscular network of the spine that help the body maintain proper posture and movements. When the muscles are well conditioned, back pain can greatly be reduced. Yoga helps increase strength and flexibility in specific muscles that support in the spine.

Yoga gentle movements can compliment the healing process. Regular yoga may help promote circulation, relaxation, strength, and flexibility. There are many different levels and types of yoga. I prefer a restorative practice for patients, since many poses are gentle and focus on stretching the muscles and relaxing the joints. Props such as blankets, blocks, and bolsters may be used to avoid overextending and increase stability. Only certain postures that protect the back and neck should be done carefully and cautiously. You should go slow and listen to your body. Stretch pain and muscle soreness may be normal. Sharp or moderate-severe pain is not. Some particular yoga poses have the potential to worsen back and neck problems, especially if done improperly.

Yoga is not a good idea if you have severe pain or injury. Before incorporating yoga into your routine, obtain your physician’s approval. If you’ve had surgery, your surgeon will determine when returning to yoga practice is safe. Make sure your yoga instructor has the proper level of experience, required qualifications and certifications. Your instructor should be aware of your personal situation so they may offer adjustments and modifications as needed.

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