Shock news – there is a risk that yoga can cause pain.

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When we move, we normally do so within our normal range of movement. This means the movements are those that we normally do, without stretching or extending excessively. However, as soon as the body is stretched outside its range of movement the risks of injury increase dramatically. So doing yoga stretches are placing a strain on elements of the body. Often these exercises are seen as beneficial, but the risks are seldom appreciated.

Yoga causes musculoskeletal pain in 10 per cent of people and exacerbates 21 per cent of existing injuries, University of Sydney research shows. Published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, the findings come from the first prospective study to investigate injuries caused from recreational participation in yoga.

Yoga is an increasingly popular complementary or alternative therapy for musculoskeletal disorders, with millions of people practicing worldwide.

“While yoga can be beneficial for musculoskeletal pain, like any form of exercise, it can also result in musculoskeletal pain,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Evangelos Pappas from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, who conducted the study with Professor Marc Campo from Mercy College, New York.

“Our study found that the incidence of pain caused by yoga is more than 10 per cent per year, which is comparable to the rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population. However people consider it to be a very safe activity. This injury rate is up to 10 times higher than has previously been reported.

“We also found that yoga can exacerbate existing pain, with 21 per cent of existing injuries made worse by doing yoga, particularly pre-existing musculoskeletal pain in the upper limbs.

“In terms of severity, more than one-third of cases of pain caused by yoga were serious enough to prevent yoga participation and lasted more than 3 months.

“The study found that most “new” yoga pain was in the upper extremities (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand) possibly due to downward dog and similar postures that put weight on the upper limbs.

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