Health + Wellness

The Science behind Cobra Pose: Why it helps back pain

A Case of Radiating Lower Back Pain

Back in March 2012, I first experienced lower back pain with tingling and aching in the back of my left leg and I had no clue what caused it. This sensation literally came out of no where. After many doctor’s visits and tests, it was determined that the lower back strain I experienced in November 2011 caused some nerve inflammation in my leg. My chiropractor, Dr. Aliya, suggested I couple my chiropractic treatments with weekly yoga classes.  Although hesitant at first, I started to notice that specific Yoga poses, in particular back bending and cobra pose always gave me some relief.

You may have experienced something similar to this patient if you have ever suffered from back pain, sciatica or nerve-related pain. Back bending (or extension) exercises have been found to provide relief to patients by helping ‘centralize’ or move pain away from one’s arms and legs towards the back, where it is usually better tolerated. The reasoning behind this mechanism of relief comes from a technique called the McKenzie Method or McKenzie Technique.

What is The McKenzie Method?

In the 1950s, physical therapist Robin McKenzie developed a system of assessment and treatment protocols based on observing how patient’s sitting, standing or moving positions or activities affected their pain.

McKenzie found that extension exercises helped centralize patient pain, moving it away from the extremities and towards the back. He theorized that centralizing the pain allows the source of the pain to be treated rather than the symptoms.

The McKenzie Method is a therapeutic approach that moves a patient through a series of activities and test movements to gauge the pain response.  The therapist then uses this information to develop an exercise protocol designed to ‘centralize’ the patient’s pain.

Think of it as bringing the pain back to the pain source.

Pain Centralization with Yoga

One of the centralization exercises for back pain utilized by the McKenzie method is the ‘Prone Press Up’.  Yogis call this ‘Cobra Pose’.  This pose provides relief from disc-related pain by alleviating compression of the disc on the nerve root (see last week’s post).

Named after the king cobra, said to have the strongest spine in the world, Cobra Pose is meant to resemble a snake before it strikes.  As mentioned, this pose is fantastic for your spinal health – but make sure you perform it correctly!

DOs and DON’Ts

The DOsPreview Changes

  • Squeeze your glutes tight and push your hips down into mat
  •  Use your eyes to start the movement – “where your eyes go, your body will follow”
  • Keep your heels together and lock your knees in order to lift them up from the floor

The DON’Ts

  • Avoid using all (100%) of your hand/arm strength; most of the strength comes from lower back muscles (remember it’s not a Push Up); Bikram recommends you use up to 15% of your hand/arm strength
  • Shrug your shoulders up to your ears; remember to drop your shoulders down
cobra pose

Cobra Pose performed by Bikram Choudhry (www.bikramyoga.com)

 

I continue to be amazed of the benefits of this Yoga and how it helps my patients get better and stay healthy.

Until next week…FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

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