Transcript below of: What is causing low back pain in forward bending?
Hey everybody! Welcome to another question of the month. As you know, every month I answer a question on video that gets submitted through my website. And, if you want to submit your own question, you can do that by going to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. This month’s question of the month comes from David. He asks a question about what is causing low back pain in forward bending.
“I’ve been practicing yoga for almost two years and began Ashtanga about 3 weeks ago. I usually find relief from lower back tension and pain from forward folds, but lately I have been feeling lower back pain — it feels like the lumbar spine — after practice. In my most recent practice I had a few particularly deep forward folds, one being baddha konasana A, where I received a deep assist from the instructor. In the days afterwards I have been feeling pain in the lower lumbar region when moving the spine. Is this common? I also omitted most of the deeper backbends in this practice to rule them out as a cause.” [DK: Which is smart. Always, getting rid of stuff so you can find out what the source is — it’s always a good idea for problem solving, especially when it comes to the body. I do it often.]
So one, remember that lower back pain is common in the general population anyway. In yoga it’s also common. I’ve gotten many questions about forward bending and lower back pain and they can go together.
So, a couple of things specifically in your case just because you’ve been practicing yoga for only a couple of years, Ashtanga just a few weeks, at least when you wrote this question — you know I can’t see how you’re doing your forward fold. The thing to look at first is, is your pelvis tilting when you do your forward fold? Right? Because, remember, every forward bend is about ⅔ hip joint (which means pelvic tilting by the way), so ⅔ forward fold comes from the actual hip joint and approximately ⅓ may be from the spine.
If you’re more like 50-50, with half of it coming from the spine, when you fold forward at the spine, you can overstretch the muscles in the back. When they get over-stretched, they have this tendency to want to tighten in response to that, which is true of any muscle. If you overstretch things, the muscles have this tendency to want to tighten up a little bit more than that.
So, if — it’s my gut — my intuition is telling me that your pelvis is probably not tilting forward enough with your forward bend and then getting the adjustment on top of that probably put a little bit more pressure or compression into the lumbar spine. Based on what you wrote here, I wouldn’t assume that it’s anything more than a muscular thing. It could even be tension in the front. Maybe the psoas went into a small state of contracture or something like that. But, chances are you’re over-doing it, over-stretching the muscles in the lower back.
As you said, the backbends, one, you omitted them. The other question to ask is, when you do the backbend, does it hurt at all? Meaning, you know, when those muscles engage, do they in a sense, feel better? So, there are a few other things that you can look at. Don’t just omit things, but go into the experience of what happens when you do backbending, when you do twisting, and then when you do forward folding. Do a few more tests. Spend a little more time. I don’t know where you’re at with it now. I can’t remember how long ago you submitted this question. So, hopefully it’s gotten better on its own, which often happens as well.
So, I hope that helped a little bit. Everybody else, remember if you’ve got a question that you want me to answer, I’ll do it on video if you go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.
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David explains why you should do both sides of a posture even if one side is more flexible than the other. He also shares a tip for binding ardha baddha padmottanasana.