Mind and Body Treatments for Back Pain

Meditation, Yoga, and Pilates

Peer Reviewed

One of the hallmarks of complementary and alternative or integrative medicine (sometimes called CAM) is a dual mind-body focus. What that means is that many alternative treatments are meant to foster a healthy mental and physical state to achieve total well being. A state of total health may help prevent a number of conditions, including back and neck pain. This article covers some common mind-body therapies, including meditation, yoga, and Pilates.

Body, spirit, mind, balance flowerMeditation
Meditation has a history that is thousands of years old. The goal of meditation is to focus and clear the mind, leading to a new level of understanding and inner peace.

Today, many people meditate for stress management. Stress is most associated with only mental repercussions. But it can exacerbate—and even cause—many diseases and disorders, including back and neck pain.

There is no set-in-stone way to meditate. The best ways to relax and block out the rest of the world are often very personal. Most people find it easiest to just sit and close their eyes. And taking even a few minutes each day to sit thoughtfully may have a positive impact on your overall health.

You could think of meditation as a garbage truck. And each day, you deal with heaps of stress—or garbage. Taking the time to meditate may help clear away or give you new perspective on your daily stresses.

Yoga
Yoga is an ancient series of exercises and poses that integrate mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is founded on its teachings of concentration, relaxation, flexibility, and positive thinking.

Each session typically contains a routine of physical poses that vary in difficulty. Participants use concentration to hold each pose. But you don't simply strengthen your concentration the longer you hold a pose. You also build flexibility. Muscles that are lean, flexible, and strong combat stress. Strong muscles also support your body and bones better, which may help prevent back pain.

A special awareness of breathing is also integral to yoga. Deep breathing is thought to foster healthy energy, while relaxing the body.

Pilates
Like yoga, Pilates is comprised of exercises meant to help strengthen your mental and physical states. Pilates emphasizes concentration and control, and these two principles help created a unifed mind and body. Precision is infused in each breath and movement.

Pilates is particularly effective if you have back pain. It improves posture and range of motion, while strengthening the abdominal muscles. (Remember, your abdominal muscles help your back muscles support your spine. When your core muscles are weak, it puts extra pressure on your back.)

Other Mind-Body Techniques
There are many other mind-body therapies to help reduce your back or neck pain, and some have a creative twist. Exploring treatments that incorporate music, art, or dance may effectively help you manage stress. Whatever the outlet, don't be afraid to explore alternative ways to manage stress and pain. Pay attention to both the mental and physical signals your body is sending, and you'll be much more likely to achieve a more complete sense of well-being.

Updated on: 04/06/16
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Laurie Morse, LAc, MTOM
This article was reviewed by Laurie Morse, LAc, MTOM.
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