Yoga or Tai Chi for Back Pain: Which Is Better?


Everybody has, at least once, suffered from back pain. Not all back pains are critical and require medical attention, but they all interfere with our daily lives – to an extent. So, if you have been affected by this condition, it is only natural to look into natural, drug-free solutions – such as yoga and tai chi. 

Both yoga and tai chi are great for relieving back pain. Yoga classes might focus on static stretches, twists, and folds – perfect to resolve muscular back pain. With its gentle, continuous, and slow movements, Tai chi is better to relieve back pain deriving from joint- or disc-induced pain.

Finding a solution for your back pain is never easy, but resorting to painkillers and medications should only be your last option. Learn more about yoga and tai chi below and pick the best solution for you!

Causes and Solutions of Backpain: An Overview

According to Georgetown University, over 65 million Americans have suffered from back pain in the past, and 16 million American adults suffer from chronic back pain. It might seem easy to resort to medicines and painkillers, but this might only solve the symptoms associated with back pain without addressing the cause of such a condition. 

So, an increasing number of people have started to explore alternative options and solutions, many of which involve some form of exercise, making it paramount to pick the right one for you. 

Generally, back pain is caused by:

  • Strained muscle or ligament (common if you are lifting weights or suffering from poor physical health)
  • Discs-related issues such as ruptured or bulging discs
  • Osteoarthritis or arthritis
  • Osteoporosis

Some risk factors such as age, obesity, diseases, improper lifting, smoking, poor posture, and certain psychological conditions can increase the likelihood of back pain. Nonetheless, anybody can suffer from it. 

You can prevent back pain through exercise and stretching. Indeed, the muscles can support and protect your joints, ligaments, and spine. Simultaneously, muscles that are long, flexible, and toned allow for increased range of motion, which will reduce the likelihood of injuries. 

Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga is an ancient, mind-body therapeutic practice that can help you in many aspects of your daily life. It can bring you mindfulness, strength, balance, flexibility, and even lower stress levels. While it might show results over time, yoga is one of the most recommended and proven practices to relieve back pain. 

First off, daily yoga practice allows you to gain a greater awareness and understanding of your body. You will start to explore how muscles, ligaments, and joints are connected, which might help you understand the nature of your back pain.

Indeed, during your practice, you might be able to identify any tension you are holding in your back or an imbalance that should be addressed. 

During your regular practice, you will also start to learn about your balance and body alignment. This exercise type will give you all the tools necessary to improve your posture and retrain your body to correct any potential imbalance. 

It is also worth noting that specific asanas (postures or poses) are more suitable than others when it comes down to relieving back pain. Indeed, poses such as a Downward-facing dog, forward fold, bow, and bridge are all ideal for stretching your back and strengthening its muscles. 

Who Is Yoga For?

While yoga is one of the recommended non-invasive treatments for back pain, it is not bound to immediately offer you results. It will require commitment and consistency to develop positive habits and retrain your muscles. 

Generally, from yoga practice, you can expect a discipline that will help you stretch, improve your muscles’ flexibility, and broaden your range of motion. While exploring such abilities, yoga will encourage you to train for endurance, resistance, and balance, all of which are necessary for strengthening the muscles. 

Ultimately, due to the benefits that this practice can bring, it is more suitable for all those injuries and back pain caused by muscular origins. Continuing to explore new postures and introducing new flows into your practice can help you determine your needs’ best practices.

If you need inspiration, you can find a short yoga practice video dedicated to fighting back pain below.

Tai Chi for Back Pain

Tai Chi is a more modern practice and non-combative martial art. During a tai chi session, you will be trained and encouraged to perform slow, gentle, and controlled movements. These moves should also be fluid and continuous. 

If yoga represents a more static solution for your back pain, tai chi represents a more dynamic one. This practice does not involve as much stretching and flexibility balance as yoga. Instead, it encourages its practitioners to move and keep fit through constant movements. 

So, this practice can help you develop and strengthen your muscles. However, this practice is particularly suitable if taking gym classes is not ideal for your condition because of its gentle nature.

Ultimately, if your back pain derives from conditions related to the discs or severe injury, tai chi represents a viable solution to more strenuous exercise. 

If you wish not to miss out on the spiritual aspect that yoga offers, don’t worry! Tai chi offers you the chance to also focus on your psychological well-being and concentration. Indeed, as part of the three elements of tai chi, you will find movement, breathing, and state of mind – which are similar to those features you will explore during a yoga practice. 

Who Is Tai Chi For?

If you love exercising, but your back injury or pain prevents you from safely enjoying a gym session, then you might consider practicing tai chi. Additionally, in most cases, it is possible to practice tai chi outdoors. In turn, spending some time in nature allows you to fill up on fresh air, natural light, and precious vitamin D. 

This compound has been seen to be extremely beneficial to reduce inflammation and relieve diseases caused by it. In turn, this can help you improve the condition of your back, regain your health, and start strengthening and lengthening your muscles safely again. 

Combining Yoga and Tai Chi

Combining yoga and tai chi to relieve back pain can be a suitable alternative to medicines. Alternating a tai chi class and a yoga class might offer you the best aspects of both practices. 

Indeed, yoga will offer you the flexibility and range of motion you need to live your life to the fullest, while tai chi gives you the chance to connect with your body and explore new ways to keep fit. 

In any case, tai chi and yoga, and other practices such as Qigong, have many aspects in common, often involving the body’s movement, coordinated with the breathing. When implemented safely, these practices can bring incredible benefits to your general well-being – and you can also practice them at home without any props!

However, speaking to a physician and understanding the cause behind your back pain is the first step to identifying the right practice for your needs. 

Conclusion

Yoga and tai chi are both ancient practices, born to connect the body and mind and look after both well-being. If done inappropriately, they can both cause you harm – so, speaking to a physician before using them to resolve your back pain is necessary. 

Yoga, with its static stretches, folds, and asanas, can look after muscle’s health – so, it can be beneficial for back pain deriving from muscular origins. Oppositely, Tai Chi is a better-suited alternative for back pains caused by disc- or joint-related conditions. A physician can help you choose.

References

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Team SafeSleep

Hi! We're a team of scientists, doctors, teachers, and coaches experienced in helping people with special needs. We hope you like our research and share it with others who might find it helpful too :)

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