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Can Yoga Reduce Pain?

Woman doing yoga

With origins in Eastern medicine, yoga has been used for centuries to practice meditation and to benefit overall health, wellbeing, and fitness. However, few people are aware of yoga’s ability to help relieve pain.

What exactly is pain?

The IASP’s (International Association for Study of Pain) definition of pain is ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage’.

In most cases, pain signifies the first warning that something is not quite as it should be with the body or mind. Pain like this, also known as acute pain, usually goes away once the underlying cause has been remedied.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is persistent and usually lasts for more than three to six months despite treatment or even after the injury has healed, or the underlying problem has gone away.

For some people, there may be no apparent physiological cause, and this can have an adverse effect on their mind-body connection. Visit The University of Minnesota – ‘Taking charge of your health and wellbeing’ for more information on the mind-body connection.

Chronic pain can affect people living with:

  • Fibromyalgia. A chronic pain disorder that affects up to 10 million Americans, many of which are women.
  • Pericoronitis. Inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth. Although the pain can be managed with antibiotics and natural home remedies such as warm salt water, in some cases your dentist may suggest removing your wisdom teeth; Best Dental can advise on whether or not they need to be removed.
  • Arthritis
  • Backache
  • Diabetes
  • Irritable bowel

 The pain that often accompanies these conditions can bring about depression and anxiety. Research shows that yoga, by having an opposite effect on the brain, can counteract chronic pain and here are just four ways in which it works.

“Practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain, as does chronic pain.” (Catherine Bushnell, PhD, Scientific Director of the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health)

4 ways yoga can ease the effects of chronic pain 

  1. Mild to moderate exercise

Exercise increases strength and flexibility. This is significant for people with arthritis as it reduces joint pain and alleviates fatigue. When walking or swimming seems too much, yoga provides a gentler form of effective exercise.

  1. Breathing Awareness

Controlled breathing exercises along with specific yoga movements, helps release muscle tension, sends more energy to the brain, and creates an improved sense of wellbeing. Regular practice, accompanied by good dental hygiene care, can aid pain associated with Pericoronitis and help avoid removing your wisdom teeth.

  1. Meditation

The debilitating effects of many conditions linked to chronic pain have been shown in clinical trials to significantly decrease through the practice of Mindfulness Meditation as used in yoga. For further information, click on U.S. News Health.

  1. Regular Practice

Regular practice of yoga, over some time, will have a positive effect on the brain’s response to chronic pain and on that all-important mind-body connection.