Combining Yoga Rehabilitation with Physical Therapy to Find the Root Cause of Pain

By Ali Malkin, MSPT, PYT at Therapeutic Inspirations

If someone bangs you in the head with a hammer and you are diagnosed with a headache – the diagnosis is correct.  However, it would not be possible to cure the headache without addressing the hammer. The same holds true for Physical Therapy intervention aimed at the symptoms and not unearthing the root cause.

Runners are frequently diagnosed with Iliotibial band syndrome and experience pain during and after a run on the side of the leg.  

Cyclists (indoor spinning and outdoor) often complain of knee pain on the inside of the knee.  They are commonly diagnosed with bursitis.

Work-aholics commonly have low back pain or sciatica that is experienced when attempting to stand after prolonged sitting posture.  

The aging population regularly complain of unsteadiness on the feet or fear of falling.

Would it surprise you to know that all of those above ailments could have a common “Hammer” or root cause?    All of those symptoms can be an expression of hip muscle (gluteus medius) weakness. The hip muscles have to work in collaboration with the abdominals and low back muscles to stabilize you during common motions that occur in daily living or in exercise.  If there is an imbalance of the length and strength of certain muscles, a cascade of symptoms can occur. Depending on your age and activity level the symptoms manifest differently from the same root cause. So how do we unearth the root cause and discover the best exercises to strengthen hip joints?  

Yoga postures offer a terrific way for a physical therapist to efficiently evaluate for postural muscle imbalances and asymmetries.  Through yoga rehabilitation therapy, a pose created with a proper foundation can serve as a screening tool of a person to determine “the hammer”, or root cause, of their particular cascade of symptoms.  Specific poses can highlight which muscles are too tight- which muscles are too weak, and which muscles are compensating, and therefore, overworked. Then, exercises for strengthening hip muscles can be applied once the root of the problem has been diagnosed in a particular individual.  

As an extra bonus, yoga rehab and poses can also be used to treat the muscle weakness and or tightness that has been identified.  There are ranges of poses involved in yoga rehabilitation therapy, which depending on the severity of the impairment, can be prescribed as a progression to achieve pain-free status.  

In the case of hip weakness as described above 4 yoga poses to progress through as exercises for strengthening hip muscles  include:

  1.    Bridge: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles and push through your gluts to lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for 1-2 seconds and slowly return back to your starting position.
  2.    Single Leg Bridge: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor position. Extend one of your knees so that only one foot is flat on the floor. Engage your abdominal muscles and push through your gluts to lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Make sure that your hips stay level and you don’t let one side drop down compared to the other. Hold for 1-2 seconds and slowly return back to your starting position.

  1.    Chair Pose: Start standing upright. Inhale as you raise your arms above your head perpendicular to the floor. Exhale as you bend your knees bringing your thighs parallel to the floor. Continue to reach your elbows back toward your ears as you elongate/extend your upper back. Hold this pose with good form for  15 seconds to 1 minute and then return to your starting position.

  1.    Tree Pose: Start standing upright with good posture and form. Shift your weight to one side and lift the other leg to place your foot alongside the inner part of your thigh. Make sure your hips are level and your center of gravity is directly over the foot you are standing on. Lengthen your tailbone towards the floor. Press your palms together in a prayer position at your chest with thumbs resting on your sternum. Inhale and exhale deeply and with control. Hold for 15 seconds to 1 minute and then return to your starting position.

As no two “hammers” or root causes of pain are the same, a thorough evaluation is always recommended.  Physical therapists can employ yoga rehab techniques to evaluate and treat each patient’s specific pain and dysfunction. Then, combining these with the best exercises to strengthen hip joints can provide the most effective treatment that’s individualized to each patient’s needs.   

Ali Malkin, MSTPT, PYT is a Physical Therapist who has naturally integrated yoga into her professional work drawing from years of experience as a yogi.  In Sanskrit, yoga means "to add", "to join", "to unite", or "to attach". This union is demonstrated in Ali’s evaluations and treatments.

You can find Ali Malkin at Therapeutics Inspiration in addition to hundreds of other quality clinics in your area on the BetterPT website and BetterPT mobile app. You can now request/book a physical therapist appointment with ease and convenience. Make sure to find out what your “hammer” is and start feeling better soon!



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