Yoga provides several pain reduction techniques. And in some cases you can even eliminate the cause of pain. For example, reducing stress could help you eliminate stress headaches and improving your musculoskeletal health could eliminate back pain.
For acute pain, yoga provides techniques, such as breath work and relaxation, that reduce your pain. And stress management practices can also reduce the emotional suffering associated with the pain. For chronic pain, yoga is beneficial both for reducing the pain and changing your relationship to it, improving your quality of life.
There are three different ways you can use yoga to reduce pain.
2. Breath work
Since everyone is dealing with different conditions and has different needs and preferences, you should choose the techniques or combination of techniques that work best for you and your limitations.
Even though people with chronic pain are often reluctant to move, research shows that both static and dynamic asana can reduce pain, improve physical functioning, and reduce pain medication usage for a range of conditions, including low back pain and arthritis, in people who are otherwise reluctant to move.
The way you are breathing is a good barometer both of your pain and your stress. Typically your breath is fast and shallow when you’re in pain and/or stressed, while it’s slower and deeper when there is no pain or pain is milder, and you’re more relaxed. So at the very least, pay attention to your breath for clues about when you should change what you are doing (or keep on doing what you’re doing). And even the simple practice of paying attention to your breath can actually interrupt pain and stress responses. So you can use simple breath awareness for flares of acute pain or for chronic, persistent pain.
Many studies have confirmed that relaxation practices can reduce pain and improve the quality of life for many chronic pain conditions, such as migraine headaches, back pain, and fibromyalgia. And because conscious relaxation practices take effect in a matter of minutes, turning off the stress response to pain and turning on immune, digestive, and repair and growth functions, these great first-line practices for acute flares of pain. So we highly recommend practicing conscious relaxation for both acute and chronic pain. Try out the various techniques to see which ones work best for you and your particular condition.