Yoga and Physical Therapy – Like Avocado and Toast?

Avocado is quite the healthy food craze these days, and for a good reason! Have you tried avocado toast? Not bad, huh?

Many food pairings go well together – good and bad. But what about wellness pairings to overcome chronic pain?

We don’t often hear about these pairings unless it has to do with medications, which can create adverse side effects and long-term health issues.

However, one wellness pairing that doesn’t seem to get talked about a lot is yoga combined with physical therapy.

As a regular reader here, you know that I am passionate about physical therapy, especially visceral manipulation therapy, cranial sacral therapy, soft tissue mobilization, and joint mobilization.

One topic I have yet to discuss, however, is the importance of combining therapeutic exercise to aid in the chronic pain recovery process. And yoga is an excellent exercise practice to incorporate in this process.

Yoga should be considered as complementary to physical therapy as it can help with the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. It can also help with creating a greater sense of well-being, increased feelings of relaxation, improving your strength, self-confidence and body image.

According to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of 320 people did 12 weeks of yoga or physical therapy, or they received written materials about how to cope with back pain. The people in the active treatment groups reported their pain as being less intense than it was from before, and they were able to move around more physically. Some members were also able to reduce, or even stop taking their pain medications altogether.

What’s interesting to note is that these improvements stuck around for a full year after the study. And the people in the study were racially diverse with most coming from lower-income households.

Physical therapy is the most common non-drug treatment for many of the big time chronic pain culprits, including low back pain, which affects millions of Americans. When yoga is combined with physical therapy, the chances of reducing pain symptoms and overcoming pain altogether are magnified.

Below are four ways in which yoga, when combined with physical therapy, can help:

Yoga Can Be Used to Treat Multiple Problems

When you experience an injury, a physical therapist will look at more than just the problem area(s). He or she will also assess multiple joints to target the treatment better.

In many cases, muscle deficiencies identified by your physical therapist can be challenged by yoga poses. A child’s pose, for instance, can help target the shoulder, back, and hip mobility.

Faster Recovery

As mentioned earlier, yoga, when combined with physical therapy, can significantly improve your chances for quicker recovery. In a 2012 study by Nilima Bedekar, patients were examined with conventional treatment and yoga poses following total knee replacement surgeries. The results showed patients experiencing greater pain relief, less stiffness in their joints, and an improved overall function with their body.

Improved Muscle Response

Muscles are covered by fascia. Fascia is a strong connective tissue that surrounds and separates muscles. Fascia is also adaptive and plays a huge role when it comes to your posture, movement, and sometimes pain – even after injury or surgery.

Inside of the fascia are receptors that belong to your nervous system. These receptors relay information about the movement. Yoga poses can be used to stimulate this connective tissue and promote better adaptation that may not be addressed efficiently with single joint exercises.

Body and Mind

The use of meditation within yoga principles can be used to help address distressful emotional states. Through better breathing techniques, and in the quiet meditation practice, patients can decrease their anxiety, depression, trauma, and of course pain.

Chronic pain is more than just a physical nuisance to the body. There are psychological factors that can (and often do) contribute to symptoms. Incorporating yoga philosophies can have a powerful effect in regulating pain and improving overall well-being.

Yoga goes well beyond flexibility and strength building. When combined with physical therapy to treat your chronic pain you can significantly improve your chances of faster recovery and overall well-being.

If you are experiencing chronic pain, then give me a call. I’d be more than happy to discuss your symptoms and help identify the root cause of your pain so we can work together in helping you live a healthier and better version of you.

 

Marge Kalfon, MSPT is the founder of PT by Marge and is a licensed physical therapist in Virginia. She graduated with her Masters of Science in Physical Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in 1996. Since then, she has practiced in a wide variety of settings ranging from large hospitals to small private practices. She has extensive training and experience with a wide variety of manual therapy techniques as well as orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation.