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Up to 85% of American adults experience back pain at some point in their lives (Andersson 1999). No doubt some of your clients are among them.
Why is the back so prone to injury? As we age, ligaments and tendons shorten and joint range of motion (ROM) decreases. Disks lose their ability to absorb shock, muscles weaken, and bones lose mass. To add to these inherent biological weaknesses, we spend too much time sitting–in cars, at desks and in front of televisions or computers–and our back muscles weaken. Bad posture makes matters worse. The low back, which bears much of the burden, is particularly prone to disk problems.
Whole-Body Back Care
Your clients don’t have to accept back deterioration lying down. In fact, doctors recommend just the opposite! “I’d say that more than half of back injuries can be prevented,” says Michael Hisey, MD, a spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Plano, Texas. “A back maintenance exercise program is key to keeping people out of trouble.”
Abdominal strengthening, conventionally emphasized for back health, is important, but on its own is not enough to protect the back from injury. Nor is low-back strengthening. Back problems involve the whole body. Many factors can contribute, including tight or weak muscles, poor posture, obesity, emotional stress, and limited range of movement in the peripheral joints (shoulders and hips). In other words, no back problem can be isolated from the functioning of the rest of the body.
Unlike traditional back care exercises, which isolate the parts of the body to be stretched or strengthened, yoga postures are designed to integrate and benefit the whole body. By lengthening connective tissue, expanding ROM and improving posture, yoga can protect against back injury.