Yoga for Post-Op Pain

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MarleneCarrell-150x150Although there are now less invasive artificial disc replacement options available, this was not the case when my mother-in-law finally decided to undergo surgery for a herniated disk in her neck. Normally a bit of a fitness fanatic (and a stronger hiker than me), her disc replacement left her relatively sedentary and in quite a lot of pain. Never one for just sitting around, my mother-in-law’s biggest concern was getting back on her feet as soon as possible.

It came as quite a surprise when she did get back on her feet, returning to her bi-weekly hiking group a full month before her surgeon told her she would. If you ask her about her quick recovery, she’ll tell you that it was all due to yoga. And I suppose it makes sense; yoga is low-impact, increases strength and flexibility, and promotes the body’s natural ability to manage pain and stress.

My mother-in-law told me that while she in recovery she watched YouTube videos of other people practicing yoga on the recommendation of her physical therapist. The idea was that by watching other people move in and out of different poses and imagining herself going through the same motions, she would indirectly experience some of the benefits that yoga provides.

I was a skeptic when she first told me this. But later, when she was staying with my husband and me, I would sit with her while she watched these videos. It was clear that this did decrease her pain and lower her stress levels. Mostly out of curiosity, I started watching tai chi and yoga videos when I got home from work, sore from sitting at my desk all day and worked up about whatever drama had unfolded at the office. It worked, and I have since enrolled in a beginner’s yoga class.

As soon as my mother-in-law’s physician gave her the green light, she started a gentle daily yoga routine. This was when her recovery really sped up. In less than two weeks, she went from doing things like reading and crochet to light gardening and whipping up treats for my two children. She stopped taking ibuprofen entirely and was, in just about every respect, back to her pre-surgery self.

As my mother-in-law will tell you, yoga can help you heal from illness or injury even if you are entirely new to it. Yoga is also an effective way to cope with pain and decrease the amount of medication necessary to manage that pain.

Marlene Carrell is a freelance writer, wife, and mother of two. Halasana is her favorite pose when she needs to unwind.

Contact Marlene Carrell at marlene.carrell@gmail.com.

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