New Research Points To These 3 Forms Of Exercise To Alleviate Lower-Back Pain

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Overhead of Young Woman Meditating on a Yoga Mat

Back pain can be caused by a number of things, from a compressed disc to a pinched nerve, but regardless of how it began, once it starts, you likely just want to get rid of it.

With many people seeking alternatives to prescription medications to deal with chronic pain, researches from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) wanted to know whether movement-based techniques actually offer any real help. They reviewed a number of studies and articles, which encompassed nearly 3,500 people in total, looking at the effects of three movement practices: tai chi, qigong, and yoga.

Based on their findings, there's significant evidence to support mindful movement for relieving back pain, with a majority of the reviewed research mentioning less pain and psychological distress and greater overall functionality as results.

Here's a breakdown on three practices, plus their benefits:

1. Tai Chi

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Tai chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that's been around for centuries. Described as "meditation in motion," it incorporates mindfulness into gentle movements and stretches. It's based around the concept of chi, or the vital life force energy within us all. By moving mindfully with our bodies, tai chi is meant to get our chi flowing.

It's also been scientifically proven to build muscles and promote flexibility and balance.

And in FAU's recent study, tai chi was found to reduce the intensity of low back pain, as well as lessen the bothersome symptoms. Specifically in young men, tai chi proved to be a more effective means for managing the pain than stretching alone.

Check out our Complete Guide To Tai Chi to get started!

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2. Qigong

Similar to tai chi, qigong is another traditional Chinese practice combining mindfulness with movement and breath. The main difference between the two is that tai chi is more of a full-body sequence, whereas one qigong move can be used to address a particular issue.

Qigong is also based around the idea of chi, meant to help energy flow freely within the body. Characterized by slow and fluid movements, qigong hasn't received as much attention as tai chi and yoga, but existing evidence supports it for improvements in pain and quality of life.

3. Yoga

And lastly, yoga was the third movement practice the team looked at, finding that a consistent practice did improve back pain across 25 studies.

Technically, yoga involves more than the physical poses or "asanas," but in this case, a physical yoga practice is known to help strengthen and loosen the body, as well as help manage chronic pain and mental health. It originated in India thousands of years ago as a spiritual practice and has evolved into exercise, stress relief, and more, across many unique styles.

To help you get started, we've got a Complete Guide To Yoga available online, and for back pain, be sure to try these three simple poses to help.

Associate professor and corresponding author of the study Juyoung Park, Ph.D., notes that more trials and evidence are necessary but says, "Yoga, tai chi, and qigong could be used as effective treatment alternatives" when it comes to getting some relief from low-back pain.

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