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Using Yoga and Self Massage to Relieve Back Pain and Tension

Despite X-ray and magnetic resonance images, doctors have long missed a possible cause of back pain: fasciae. What scientists thought for a long time was just dead support material plays an important role in the development of back pain, according to newer knowledge. And now it is becoming clear why yoga and “myofascial self-massage” are important instruments in the fight against pain.

A plethora of people suffers from back pain. For a long time, doctors advised those affected above all to strengthen their muscles – in line with the advertising slogan “A strong back knows no pain”. In many cases, however, this did not help permanently. The logic behind it: what is not claimed cannot hurt.

Many physiotherapists or osteopaths, on the other hand, have had a different view of things for years – based on different approaches, such as the “Rolfing” developed by the biochemist Ida Rolf. This form of massage targets the connective tissue in the body, which surrounds the muscles and organs as a thin white layer. With special slow massage techniques, the original elasticity of this tissue, also called fascia, is to be restored to the muscles and the blood circulation is increased.


Even if this form of treatment led to success in pain patients (not only in the area of the back), many doctors remained sceptical – not least because fascia could not be made visible in living people. Many doctors thought that connective tissue was dead support material. But new scientific knowledge is now also forcing them to rethink.

Back Pain

For example, a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 found that imaging procedures such as nuclear spin did not explain the symptoms in 75 per cent of back pain patients. In contrast, it was shown that there are many sensory receptors in the connective tissue that signal pain (nociceptors) – and that the fasciae can be a pain generator, even if the intervertebral disc itself is not damaged.

It has now been proven that back pain patients often have thickened fascia in the lumbar region and that this area is also more sensitive to back pain

On the other hand, consequential damage can also occur in completely different places if fasciae stick or thicken: Since the connective tissue and the supporting tissue (bones and cartilage) contribute to the distribution of forces in the body and support the activity of the skeletal muscles, tension quickly leads to permanent incorrect posture – and a so-called muscular imbalance.

A site can ultimately cause serious problems in a completely different part of the body. The fact that all muscle fascia systems of the body are connected with each other has a decisive influence on the osteopathic model of thought. And finally, interestingly, fasciae also react to substances that can be found in the human body under stress.

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What to do?

Of course, this post would not appear on this page if practising yoga were not a – proven – way to treat glued and thickened fascia. Finally, the yoga ensures that the connective tissue is stretched properly again. In addition, many exercises aim to eliminate muscular imbalances.

There are no better and worse yoga styles per se – but there are certain exercises that have a particularly mobilizing, opening, strengthening and stabilizing effect on the body. Props (aids) such as belts can often also be used profitably.

It was not uncommon for a broken or degenerative disc (DDD) cured through yoga – and “gentle posture” is also prescribed. Scientific studies show that yoga once a week can be enough. Last but not least, mediation exercises lower the stress level, which – as mentioned above – also negatively affects the fascia.

Speaking of aids: hard foam rolls for the purpose of the so-called “myofascial self-massage” should also be emphasized in the treatment of back pain. With the help of your own body weight, the pressure is applied to hardenings in the skeletal muscles in order to relieve muscle tension and increase blood circulation.

In English, one speaks of “Self Myofascial Release” (SMR). The hard foam roll is often rolled over the muscles; the resulting pressure is maintained for 30–60 seconds at the point of muscle tension

The “trigger point therapy” in turn aims to eliminate so-called “myofascial trigger points”. These are locally limited muscle hardening in the skeletal muscles, which are locally sensitive to pressure and from which pain can be transmitted. Around 80 to 90% of pain syndromes are said to be due to such hardening of the muscles.

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Many back pain can be effectively and permanently combated without surgery. The scientific studies in recent years have shown more and more clear that it is worthwhile for those affected to look for solutions beyond conventional medicine – and that as a pain patient you can do a lot more than taking pain pills

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