Improving non-specific back pain with Dru yoga

In the last few posts, I’ve been looking at the spine and today I want to share with you how Dru Yoga made a difference to my back problems.

My journey with back pain

I have always had issues with back pain due to a series of incidents in my younger years (accidents and self-inflicted!). When I was about 8 years old, I had a nasty fall where I bruised my back very badly. In my late teens and early 20’s, I was into heavy metal…and yes, that involved headbanging – really not great for the neck (I did warn you that some of this was self-inflicted!). A car accident when I was 19 years old gave me whiplash. In my 20’s I experienced a herniated disc in my neck after helping someone move house. Unfortunately, it was misdiagnosed as a shoulder injury and I was put in a sling for over 6 weeks. When it was finally recognised as a herniated disc, I needed a lot of physio to bring my shoulder back down and to release my neck. But it doesn’t end there. While I finished my degree I worked with children with autism and challenging behaviour, in specialist care centres, and with the elderly. I sustained numerous neck and back injuries during this time. Despite the injuries, I have never regretted working in these areas – the work was very rewarding.

Unsurprisingly after this catalogue of spinal disrespect, I ended up with a very sore back and chronic neck pain! I suffered severe headaches and had an atrocious posture (even though I had done a lot of different types of yoga since I was a teenager). I was eventually diagnosed with spondylosis in the cervical spine in my early 30’s. I thought I would always have to put up with the pain – not a pleasant prospect. I can totally emphasise with people when they tell me how miserable back and neck pain can be. So what changed for me?

Doing the Dru!

About four years or so ago, I found Dru Yoga. Not only did Dru Yoga save me from anxiety and depression but it helped alleviate my neck and back problems…in fact now, most people would not realise that I ever had a problem! So what did I do?

Every day I practised Energy Block Release One and the Dru spinal alignment sequence. I soon started to notice that my posture was improving and the creaks and clunks in my neck and shoulders were starting to become less and less. The other amazing thing was my headaches started to diminish. and eventually stopped completely! I now rarely get headaches and they usually happen when I have been doing computer work for long periods without a break – never a good plan!

As long as I do my Dru Yoga practice, I rarely get neck or back pain these days; I feel flexible and mobile…but don’t just take my word for it! Here’s why Dru Yoga is so good for easing back pain.

Why is Dru Yoga so beneficial?

In Dru yoga, movements flow with the breath and joints remain soft so that they are relaxed and flexible (1) .This type of yoga is particularly effective at alleviating lower back pain because spinal movements and core stability are important elements of a Dru Yoga class. Every posture is actually a flowing sequence. The aim with each movement is to focus on energy travelling through the spine (through the chakras) like a wave and for the limbs to move effortlessly – all movement is generated from the spine and the breath. The Spinal Wave is an important element of Dru Yoga; the movement flows from the base of the spine upwards, so that each vertebra is moving separately, expanding the spine and easing compression. The movement is then reversed so that the it  travels up and down the spine  like a wave (1). The Spinal Twist is also a key component of Dru Yoga ­– all twisting movements start from the base of the spine and move upwards so that the neck moves last and then the motion is reversed (1). Concentrating on the base of the spine helps to improve non-specific lower back pain and also ensures we are moving in balance. Furthermore, the movements increase flexibility of the facet joints and help the discs to hydrate due to the pumping motion.

Strong, yet flexible, core stability muscles (see earlier blogs) are important for supporting and stabilising the spine. Movements in Dru Yoga are practised with a contraction of the lower abdominal muscles and pelvic floor which in turn activates the transversus abdominus and lumbar multifidus. These muscles become strengthened leading to improved posture and spinal alignment (1). Ultimately, a Dru yoga class empowers a student to take control of their non-specific lower back pain and helps them to become more positive about a pain-free future – easing stress and improving well-being.

The science behind Dru Yoga

So for all you people who like things to be evidence-based – here’s the science bit! Dr Ned Hartfiel is a leading researcher into the benefits of yoga for alleviated perceived stress and back pain. Here’s a summary of some of the back-pain related evidence:

  • A 2012 study demonstrated that Dru yoga is effective at alleviating back pain in the workplace (2). Participants of the study received a 50 minute Dru yoga class each week for eight consecutive weeks and were also given a 20 minute DVD to allow them to continue practising at home. The Dru yoga group, in comparison with controls who did not perform yoga,  achieved statistically significant reductions in back pain (as measured using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire [RDQ]; p<0.01) at the end of the programme (2).
  • A recent study (2017) demonstrated that an eight week Dru Yoga programme, versus usual care (i.e. an educational programme with no yoga), was associated with reductions in physical and psychosocial components of back pain. At eight weeks statistically significant reductions in back pain-related disability were reported (as measured by RDQ [−0.84 (95% CI −1.78, −0.06); p < 0.05] and Keele STarT [−0.61 (95% CI −1.19, −0.39); p <0.001]) (3).
Dr Ned Hartfiel, leading yoga researcher

If you would like to know more:

 

Come to a Dru Yoga class and find out for yourself!

In addition to standard Dru Yoga classes, I also run specific back care classes for those people who already have problems with their backs. If you would like more information, please feel free to get in touch…I’m always happy to answer questions. Namaste

 

References

  1. Barrington C, Goswāmī A, Jones A. Dru Yoga: Stillness in Motion. Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, North Wales, U.K.: DRU Publications; 2005.
  2. Hartfiel N, Burton C, Rycroft-Malone J, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Khalsa SB, et al. Yoga for Reducing Perceived Stress and Back Pain at Work. Occup Med 2012;62:606–12. Available from: http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/62/8/606
  3. Hartfiel N, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Phillips C, and Edwards RT. Cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing
    musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace. Occup Med 2017;67:687–695. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/9/687/4676035

 

What’s happened so far

Thanks for joining me on my first week of blogging! Just in case you’ve missed anything, here’s a quick summary of what’s happened so far over the last nine days!

So here goes!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts so far and have found them useful! Tomorrow I’m going to look at the chakras – hope you can join me! Namaste.


 

Reduce back pain with Dru Yoga

Did you know that back pain is one of the most common reasons for a visit to a UK doctor? Perhaps you’ve experienced back pain? If you have then you know how miserable it can be. Dru Yoga is backed by scientific research which indicates that it can help reduce back pain!

The science bit

A lot of the research into Dru yoga has been conducted by Dr. Ned Hartfiel. His research in 150 NHS employees suggested that an 8-week Dru Yoga programme, compared with usual-care, was associated with improvements in health-related quality of life and reductions in both physical and psychosocial components of back pain. He also found that the yoga group visited health professionals for back pain only half as often as the usual care group during the six month study. The results are very encouraging but larger trials are needed to further prove the impact yoga has on back pain. You can read Dr. Hartfiel’s research here: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/9/687/4676035

An earlier study by Dr Hartfiel also indicated that workplace yoga may reduce perceived stress and back pain and improve psychological well-being. You can read about this here: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/62/8/606/1441276

My experience with Dru Yoga

When I started my Dru Yoga teacher training, I was very stressed. I’ve already talked about how Dru Yoga helped reduce my stress and anxiety and really changed my life but I haven’t mentioned the physical benefits!

I was suffering from back, neck, and shoulder pain related to old injuries. I often had chronic headaches and musculoskeletal pain – I was a constant pest asking for massages! I’d had physiotherapy, osteopathy, cranial sacral therapy, and acupuncture. All these techniques provided relief but it was never long-lasting.

I began to practice Dru Yoga everyday. I did Energy Block Releases like EBR1 and EBR7, and practiced the spinal alignment sequence regularly. I soon noticed the difference – my posture improved and my neck began to crack less. Lower back pain was reduced and my shoulders also moved more freely and crunched less. Soon I stopped pestering for massages and my regular headaches became a thing of the past. Now I use my Dru Yoga like a first-aid kit – any sign of musculoskeletal pain and I use poses and stretches to deal with it! It’s not just me – my back care class tell me how much easier they find it to move now; that’s so encouraging to hear.

Find out for yourself

The best way to evaluate something is to find out for yourself! If you’re interested in Dru Yoga (and you’re in the Bicester area) you can contact me about classes and 1:1s. Alternatively, check out the Dru website at www.druyoga.com.

Have a great day!