Chronic lower back pain is an issue that affects most stay-at-home workers, students, and even office workers. It is a condition that significantly impacts the quality of life for many around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this issue is the biggest contributor to the overall burden of musculoskeletal conditions worldwide (2). To make matters worse, a study published in 2022 in the Musculoskeletal Care journal stated that cases of back pain have been on the rise since the pandemic in 2020 (1). If you are among the many people burdened with the issue, then chair yoga for lower back pain relief may just be the answer you have been looking for. Read on to find out the most effective chair yoga positions for lower back pain.
Is Chair Yoga Good For Your Back?
Yes, it is! Chair yoga is a modified variation of the original ancient and complex Indian practice that combines physical, mental, and spiritual systems to not only help people achieve relaxation but also mental and physical fitness as well as better coordination, concentration, and flexibility.
Over the years, research has shown that yoga can help relieve back pain.
One review of 12 studies with about 1080 participants published in the American Journal of Nursing found that this practice can help alleviate back pain and increase back function, especially when compared to non-exercise (4).
Another study done by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center also found that this practice helps improve physical function and reduce pain in those dealing with chronic back pain.
What’s even better is that researchers found that those who did yoga and physical therapy were also more likely to stop taking pain relievers after a year of either practice option (5).
An earlier study reviewing about eight randomized controlled trials, with a total of 743 participants, found that this practice had a medium to a large positive effect on functional disability as well as pain caused by chronic low back pain (6). With this in mind, it is clear to see that yoga is definitely beneficial for back pain.
On the other hand, chair yoga for lower back pain and hips is a more gentle, easily accessible version that is done while sitting — and in a few cases while standing. The chair is used for support and cushioning for those who cannot sit on hard surfaces or experience balance problems.
Best Chair Yoga For Lower Back Pain Poses
If you are not familiar with this practice, here are some beginner chair yoga for lower back pain poses to get you started using only a sturdy chair:
Seated Cat-Cow Stretch
- Start by sitting in the middle of your chair. Make sure that your feet are firmly and flat on the ground.
- Place your hands on your knees and sit upright with proper posture.
- On an inhale, lift your chest and stick your hips back behind you. Make sure not to move your head.
- Keep your gaze at a point right in front of you and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Hold this position for about 3 breaths.
- On an exhale, round your back and tuck your chin down toward your chest. Do not move your hips.
- Hold here for 3 more breaths before going to the starting position.
- Repeat this a couple more times, about 8-10 times.
Upward Salute/Chair Urdhva Hastasana
- Seat with proper posture on your chair of choice.
- Scoot forward to the middle or the edge of your seat — whatever feels most comfortable.
- On an inhale, slowly lift your arms as high as you can. You should feel this stretch from your elbows through the palms, all the way to your fingertips.
- On an exhale, bend to your right and hold this position for 3-5 breaths.
- Go back to the upright position (step 3). Do not arch your back as you slowly come back to this position.
- Get into the arched position again and slowly bend to the left side. Hold for 3-5 breaths as well.
- Repeat this sequence a couple more times before dropping your arms.
Seated Spinal Twists
- Sit sideways on your chair.
- On an exhale, reach back with your right hand and push against the back of the chair while your left palm touches the outside of your right knee.
- Hold this position for 5 breaths or about 30 seconds.
- Go back to the center position, then rotate to the other side. This time the back of the chair should be on your left side and repeat the entire process.
- Twist like this 5-10 times on each side. You can alternate sides as described above or do 5-10 twists as described above on one side before switching to the other side.
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Tips On How To Sit In A Chair With Lower Back Pain
Learning how to sit in the right way is a great way to cope with low back pain.
Some of the best sitting tips include:
Sitting With A Good Posture
Sitting or standing with good posture automatically ensures that you will not deal with back pain at any point in your life. If you are dealing with back pain, good posture ensures that your spine is in alignment which relieves pressure in the lower back.
Tips to sit with good posture include:
- Find a chair that’s the proper height for you. Your feet should rest flat on the floor. Use a footrest if you cannot change your chair or if it’s not adjustable.
- While seated, ensure that your knees are at level with or below your hips. Keep the ankles in front of the knees and ensure that there’s a small space between the seat and the back of the knees.
- Ensure that your back is flush with the backrest of your chair. This prevents slouching.
- If you are looking at a computer or laptop, ensure that the screen is at eye level or slightly below. Use a computer stand or raiser to ensure that it’s at this level.
- Finally, ensure that your head and neck are always in line with your torso and that your shoulders are away from your ears, relaxed, and parallel to the ground.
Read More: What Is Chair Yoga? Benefits, Poses And More
If achieving proper posture is impossible, the next best position is as follows:
Sitting With Some Lumbar/Back Support
Having some kind of support helps align your back, especially if you have lumbar lordosis — it is a condition where the spine, especially the lower back, curves inwards.
A study published in the Asian Spine Journal found that sitting (or standing) with back support not only reduces spinal curvature, but also reduces pressure on your spine, back muscles, and shoulders – which decreases pain (3).
When sitting with lumbar support you should:
- Sit as described in step 1 above. This works even better if you find a chair with a high-back, firm chair, and armrests.
- Place a cushion or pillow on your lower back. It will help you sit in an upright position.
The Bottom Line
Are Yoga Ball Chairs Good for Your Back? No, they are not. These ball chairs offer no back support, which means that you are almost always slouching when seated on them. They will cause or even worsen existing lower back pain.
On the contrary, chair yoga is very good for combating back pain. As seen above, yoga is generally great for dealing with this pain. Doing chair yoga poses for lower back pain will reduce this issue in time and will thoroughly improve your quality of life.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Back pain: An aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic? A Malta perspective (2022, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Musculoskeletal health (2022, who.int)
- The Effect of Standing and Different Sitting Positions on Lumbar Lordosis: Radiographic Study of 30 Healthy Volunteers (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effect of Yoga on Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain (2018, journals.lww.com)
- Yoga eases moderate to severe chronic low back pain (2017, nih.gov)
- Yoga for chronic low back pain: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)