Yoga therapy is proving itself a promising approach to manage chronic pain.
Pain is a natural mechanism that helps protect the body from danger. However, when pain lasts for more than three months, it is called chronic or persistent pain. This causes distress and affects quality of life. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, around 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.
What is Chronic Pain?
There are different types of chronic pain, including nociceptive, neuropathic, and nociplastic pain.
- Nociceptive pain is caused by physical damage or inflammation of tissues.
- Neuropathic pain is caused by damage or dysfunction of nerves.
- Nociplastic pain is caused by the hypersensitivity of the nervous system and brain. This type of pain amplifies pain signals even in the absence of tissue damage.
While painkillers help manage chronic pain, they have side effects and are not always effective. Yoga therapy is a natural remedy that helps alleviate chronic pain, especially nociplastic pain.
What Chronic Pain is Revealing Through Research
Studies show that yoga therapy improves mobility and function, reduces pain and anxiety and elevates mood and psychosocial well-being in people with chronic pain conditions. For instance, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for chronic low back pain. Another study, published around the same time, found that yoga was comparable to standard exercise therapy in relieving chronic low back pain.
A meta-analysis of 17 studies that included more than 1,600 participants concluded that yoga can improve daily function among people with fibromyalgia and osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine.
Why Does Yoga Therapy Help Chronic Pain?
A cornerstone of treating chronic pain with yoga therapy is using yoga practices that help people feel safe when they move. Yoga offers many practices aimed at focus and attention, which help break the pain pattern. By building internal awareness (interoception), individuals increase their understanding of pain as well as other internal sensations and experiences. This helps them notice patterns that result from and bolster pain, like muscle tension, breath holding and upper chest breathing.
Once practitioners build interoception, practices that help re-regulate the nervous system can be introduced. This further interrupts pain patterns in the body and mind. When working with people with persistent pain, following the A.R.M.S. yoga therapy method, created by C-IAYT Sarah Gardner, is helpful.
What is the Yoga Therapy Method, A.R.M.S. ?
The A.R.M.S. acronym is a great way to connect with the various aspects of yoga therapy that support you in releasing chronic pain. These include:
Awareness: Body scans, conscious awareness, meditation, and other practices help tune practitioners into their breath, body, and mind. These build interoception.
Regulation: Re-regulating the nervous system makes the mind less vigilant, thereby turning the volume down on pain. These practices can include conscious relaxation and breathing focused on exhalation.
Movement: Integrating awareness and regulation is essential to remain calm and relaxed while introducing movement. The practitioner starts with simple movements that teach the body and brain to move with safety and keep the pain levels down.
Strength and Coordination: Once the first three stages have been well established, strength and coordination practices can be introduced.
Pain is complex, and treatment is rarely a direct journey of A to B. However, combining yoga therapy as a treatment modality with other medical interventions can be life changing. Individuals learning yoga practices not only benefit from reduced central sensitization, but also get to play an active, informed role in their own therapeutic journey. With the right guidance and support, yoga therapy can help people with chronic pain conditions find natural and effective relief.
Help for Your Chronic Pain
If you are dealing with pain in any form, reach out to me. Let’s create the wellness plan that is going to give you the pain free life that you deserve. Book a free 30 Minute Wellness Consult & Goal Setting Call now. I’m here ready to help you find freedom once again.
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