Researchers have learned recently that, besides relieving problem backs, yoga can provide help for people suffering from serious medical conditionsasthma and multiple sclerosis among them. If you have an acute injury such as a herniated disk, you still need to see a doctor, of course. But if you have a chronic condition, especially one that’s not responding to conventional care, read on.
Soothing an Aching Back
In research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Medicine, 21 people 60 or older started doing yoga twice weekly. The volunteers all had rounded upper backs, which can limit normal movement. A yoga regimen was sufficient to reduce their curvatures by 6 percent, increase their walking speeds by 8 percent, and improve their reaches by 18 percent. And many reported that yoga helped their balance. The UCLA study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests that yoga produced an increase in overall strength and flexibility.
The most useful poses for students with back trouble are those that build strength and lengthen the back muscles as well as anchor the feet, such as standing mountain, triangle, and warrior I.
Relieving Wrist Pain
Approximately one in 10 Americans suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a painful condition in which swollen tendons pressure nerves in the wrist. Conventional remedies include immobilizing joints with splints or even surgery. But according to a review published last summer in the Annals of Family Medicine, yoga may be among the safest first-line treatments for people with mild symptoms.
The study that first got the attention of physicians, though, appeared in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers found that CTS sufferers who did Iyengar yoga (which stresses proper alignment) twice a week for 8 weeks boasted a fourfold improvement in grip strength and a twofold decrease in pain.