Extreme Lower Back Pain

I feel embarrased, which is probably a good sign, might teach me a thing or two. I hurt myself. I don’t know when it was. That is the worst part. I have no idea when it happened.

Last Wednesday my ladies holidays arrived very conveniently [NOT!] while in Kurmasana. Dead set in the middle of primary series, eliminating the possibility of it being a rest day, but oh well.  I stopped there and took my two days of rest.  The next day however,  I noticed some pain in my lower back, and when the first practice back from holidays came around the very early poses signaled me that for the life of God I had to stop!  It all happened at triang mukhaikapada paschimottanasana. It was simply impossible.

Triang mukhaikapada paschimottanasana
 did me in… there was no more practice after that

I could not bend down.  My lower back was in pain, a LOT of pain. I could only move vertically up and down, no opportunity for side movement. In any direction. Even to stand up I had to ask for help and the pain would be terrible until I was completely straight up.

Looking at anatomy books and into the internet I could clearly isolate the Erector Spinae as being the one in trouble, it is after all the muscle that maintains the spine erect and it is exactly where I, still, feel the pain.

Body builder showing off his erector spinae

Good thing I have been reading “I Am That” and was able to put things in perspective, take it easy, and notice that a little injury is just something happening in the screen of my mind and that none of what my mind was telling me was true (things like I would never be able to practice again, etc.)

I am helping things by doing the following:

– Staying active.  Going to bed seems not good as usually pain is an indication of stagnated energy, which, if immobilized could lead to further complications.  So I did what I could which was not much. Even sitting hurt.

– Took quite a bit of Advil. Especially in the first couple of days. Advil is a blessing for reducing inflammation.  I have yet to try the Chinese herb recommended in “A Tooth From the Tiger’s Mouth” which is the “herbal ice”, or San Huan San.  I did not have any handy and therefore Advil had to do the trick, which it did, nicely, it allowed for some movement and walks. I love walks, especially on this weather, I mean, is this weather for real? 80 degrees in March?

– Went back to Dr. H’s suggestions, which work like charm, used the Gou Pi Medicated Plaster, they are expensive but worth every penny.  For the past couple of days I have had two in my lower back and they ease things, get the chi to move, and reduce inflammation.  They also feel mildly warm.

Gou Plaster with
Chinese medicinal properties

– I re-ordered the U-I Oil (like “you and I” oil -that is how I remember the name) which I used in India when I had a deep adjustment in Kurmasana.  This oil is great for when something hurts, I put it in the morning and then wash it off after a few minutes because if you leave it for a long time it will burn more and more.

Then as the practice starts to kick in (say by the end of the standing sequence or earlier depending on temperature) the area gets warmer and the circulation flows.

This one works.  Liking it quite a bit, helped me in India
and now at home

– I also tried cupping, but I suppose I need more practice with that.  James helped me with the suction cups I got a few months ago, and I left them there on the back for a good five to ten minutes.  Maybe it is because it was on  day one and I did not repeat that I did not feel any difference. Nothing helped on day one, it was just terrible.

-The one thing that DID NOT WORK: I Tried a new Analgesic and pain relieving lotion made in Singapore called Hak Kwai, and I must say it did not work AT ALL.  Not only that but it also stained everything, the sink, my hands, my back.  It is going straight into the garbage.


Today I was finally able to get on the mat and  was surprise at how even though the right side still hurts, most of the practice was doable, even the sited forward bends, within reason.

The impossible ones turned out to be any jump backs or throughs and the shoulder-stand.

But I guess I am learning about anatomy and about seeing things reflected on a screen knowing that they are not me. And that I, like you, am the witness of it all.

If you read this far you may want to see what happened in the end. Also here is how John Cambpell (my certified Ashtanga Yoga Teacher in NYC, quickly identified the root of the part of the problem that was not psychological), a great read.

29 Responses to Extreme Lower Back Pain

  1. cokoC March 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    i recently had a bout with sciatica (returning) and realized that i had NOT been taking my big three for back pain – magnesium (400mg), fish or flax oil, and vit d (4000 ius). got back on them and it helped, then got some acupuncture and that helped too. <br /><br />low back pain is often related to deficient kidney qi. I would suggest seeing your acupuncturist!

    • Claudia March 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

      CokoC, yes i miss Dr H and his accupuncture sessions, have not had the universe aligned in that direction yet this year but it;s in the cards, I believe in accupuncture, as per the vitamins I cant tell either way if they help or not in my case, but good reminder, thanks for the comment.

  2. lilasvb March 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    back pain is terrible, savasana works a lot for me when i do have some back pain

    • Claudia March 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      for me too, did a nice Yoga Nidra session after savasana today and felt good. Glad that the worst is over… 🙂

    • brgibson April 14, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      same here, its irritating and it&#39;s really not good when I&#39;m at work, sometimes i feel lower back pain and also i have been experience neck pain… it&#39;s really bad experience and not good when at work. Now finally it&#39;s gone, and i feel better now than before, i buy a good products that so fast pain recovery and its guaranteed pain relief. <br /><br /><a href="http://

  3. Franny Glass Arrives March 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    HI Claudia,<br />I&#39;m writing for David G cause we are workshopping and I have the computer at the moment. I was just scoping through your blog and saw this post. David says, &quot;You should read Mind Over Back Pain by Dr. Jonathan Sarnos (slighly msp??). Don&#39;t get thrown by the title and there&#39;s some really powerful stuff in the book that can really empower you. Guruji&#39;s method

    • Claudia March 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      Hi Joy, thanks for taking the time to write and also getting in some tips from David, much appreciated. Funny thing is when Martina was visiting me last year she was reading his second book, I guess? it is called something slightly different and have that on the I-pad, but will get this one too. Thanks for sharing that the methods are similar, I am very interested now, would not like for this

  4. Anonymous March 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Hi Claudia, <br /><br />I suffered from a similar pain in my lower back for quite some time and nothing I did seemed to resolve it. It was right around the time that I began working on kapotasana. After a few months of practicing through the pain my teacher suggested that I see his chiropractor. The chiropractor pointed out that I had some trigger points in my abdomen that were referring pain to

    • Claudia March 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      Hm, this is curious indeed, I guess I shuold not be saying I have started working on kapotasana, what I do could not even be a sorry phantom of the asana, it is just a very rough sketch, but interesting that you felt something like that when facing the big K. <br /><br />Been reading quite a bit on trigger points due to Susan pointing out the Theracane and the book that goes with it. So much to

  5. tom March 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Hope you mend quickly Claudia. Since folks are offering suggestions…<br /><br />Check for trigger points in your quadratus lumborum, psoas, and glutus medius. Whether they are the cause of or a result of other lower back issues I cannot say, but working these three has always helped me release lower back issues. If you want to learn more about trigger points, there&#39;s a good intro book by

    • Anonymous March 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

      Great minds think alike Tom 🙂

    • Claudia March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      Ha!, new term for me, &quot;quadratus lumborum&quot;… sorry just feel like saying: &quot;It&#39;s 6:16 PM, do you know where your quadratus lumborum is? I know, probably not cut out to be a comedian…anyways, it turns out that could also be what is hurting, the area is right there, but it seems there are a few muscles overlaping exactly in that area. Good pointers for the Theracane to reach

    • tom March 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      They sure do Anonymous!<br /><br />Claudia you can massage your QL&#39;s from the side, either when sitting up or lying on your side. The painwhisperer site that Anon linked to has a video of this I think…<br /><br />And I should say I am really enjoying getting to be a spectator to your Nisargadatta experience…my first read of I am that a few years ago ripped through so many of my self

  6. Grimmly March 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Sorry your in pain/discomfort Claudia. My back has been playing up off and on for the last year, turns out a new mattress seems to be making all the difference, that or scooping my sacrum here there and everywhere. Just had my first week practicing full Ashtanga in the early mornings before work all winter. Re forward bends I found straightening up the most painful, found binding helped Ardha

    • Claudia March 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      Grimmly, comforting to read from you. I think I just read about your new mattress and how happy you are with it. Ours is relatively new and a pretty good one, solid, pretty taugh, like it quite a bit myself… we got the frame in Japanese style, I kind of love it is the best bed I ever had… but I digress… I agree with you that a good night sleep is key.<br /><br />Interesting that

  7. Grimmly March 24, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    Have just posted on my modified Sury&#39;s here

  8. David Horwitz March 24, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Anonymous March 24, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Claudia, I have lots of back injuries from &quot;before yoga,&quot; some of which popped up/got worse when I started. My teacher has worked with me patiently to get through them. I am grateful every day for my back injuries, because they have driven me to yoga and deeper into it, as working right gives me more than relief, it makes me feel healthy and whole some times. Remember that it&#39;s a

    • Claudia March 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      Oh yes, the bond with yoga is there alright! I am experimenting with trigger point, have the theracane and it did something for me, moved things along last night as I tried it, not sure if for better or worse or the same, some movement for sure. Thanks for the tips on the pillows, already using the one between the legs while sleeping but did not have the one under the knees for savasana,

  10. David March 24, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Sorry to hear about your back. Walking and acupuncture help me a lot when my lower back starts to act up and becomes painful and immobilizing. I find being lateral while walking helps the compression of my lower back; even if I&#39;m in an acute period of lower back pain, I will get myself on my feet and walk, slowly, around the neighborhood. Also, since I sit a lot during the day at a computer,

    • Claudia March 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      Yes, I agree with that, thank God that phase went away and my range of movement is almost back to normal now. Interesting on the chair recommendation… Grimmly was giving a bed recomendation, it is true that we spend so much time in these things that it only makes sense to invest… The modified cobra… guess i could incorporate it at some point in primary tomorrow and try, why not, anything

  11. Anonymous March 24, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    hi claudia – i think kundalini yoga is great generally, but even better during the rehabilitative stage as the poses are pretty easy to do and some kriyas are specifically designed for the lower back. since you&#39;re near new york, i might recommend getting in touch with gurmukh, the preeminent practitioner of kundalini yoga at the golden bridge yoga center in la or soho and ask her for

    • Claudia March 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

      Anon thanks, I have a great person I go to for pain, my famous Dr. H, just have not gotten to it. As per Kundalini, although I respect all other practices I am pretty much married to this ashtanga thing, I have seen it work on me and through me again and again, doubt I would be trying or dabling into other styles for now… But appreciate the suggestion.

  12. Anonymous March 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    agree that modified cobra can help, also doing the suryas from the knees rather than standing. But i really suggest going to your teacher or another good, experienced yoga teacher who can watch you and make suggestions. Michael Gilbert in ny is well known for his work with injuries, especially back injuries. <br /><br />Btw, if you take iburprofen or aleve, take it at regular intervals (

    • Claudia March 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      Yeap, the suryas from the knees was the only way I could do them, at least in the beginning. In the video that Grimmly posted today, before the most recent one with the poem you can pretty much see exactly how it went for me, and how it gets better as they progress too…<br /><br />And thanks for the tip on the intervals.

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