Relieve back pain through prayer

Praying five times a day is more effective than any painkiller

Back pain is the bane of my life, both personally and professionally. As a GP, close to 25% of my consultations are related to back pain but treating it well is difficult. Pain killers are not that effective, especially in the long-term, physiotherapy requires patient motivation (which is often lacking), and surgery is often fraught with complications without any guarantee of success.

Even doctors get back pain

I know that my own back pain is due to my poor posture during long days at work hunched over a computer keyboard. In order to counteract the relentless forward bending force that my body exerts on my spine, every day I make an effort to extend my back in the opposite direction, by lying on the floor on my front and slowly lifting my head and body up whilst gently squeezing the muscles in my lower back.

The other day I realised that prayer has a similar effect. I am, of course talking about Muslim prayer which involves several distinct movements of the spine: standing up tall, bending at the waist to make a right angle, getting on our knees and touching the ground with our hands and head and finished off by kneeling with our bums on our heels. There are many more fine details but these are the ones that make prayers at the mosque look like Mexican Wave to the uninitiated.

The movements of the spine during prayer reverse the pressures that are present during the rest of the day, especially if we have a poor posture. So the more that you do it, and you should try to do it five times a day, the better for your back.

More than just movement

Of course Islam has other ways that it can help with back pain: fasting teaches us that our bodies can endure hardship and prayer shifts our concentration from our own bodily sensations to a world beyond ours, as well as encouraging us to think about the pain of others so putting ours in perspective.

I am so convinced of the benefit of prayer that I think even if non-Muslims did the same back movements five times a day, over time they would start to see an improvement in their symptoms.

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