Relieve back pain through prayer

Praying five times a day is good for your spine.

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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.

One thought on “Relieve back pain through prayer”

  1. Dear White British Muslim, I’ve read your article with interest and since you are both a doctor and a Muslim, I would like to know your opinion about something important. I came across a WHO leaflet about the so-called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), published in May 2017, where it says that people with certain diseases should “avoid contact with dromedary camels, consuming raw camel milk or camel urine”. I wondered why they would advice people not to drink camel urine. There are actually several research articles on this issue, for instance “Evidence for zoonotic origins of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus”, 2016, J. General Virology, 97, 274–280. I then discovered that drinking camel urine is a Muslim practice that comes from reliable Muslims sources such as Sahih al-Bukhari (book 4, hadith 233 and book 24, 1501) and Sunan an-Nasai’ (sahih grade, book 1 ironically titled “The purification”, hadith 307). The prophet Muhammad told some people who did not feel well to drink camel urine. When these people stole the camels, the Prophet of Islam ordered his men to capture the thieves, gouge their eyes with burning nails and cut off their hands and feet. The Prophet said that those men had been punished because of they were unbelievers. Sahih al-Bukhari is actually the reason why Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day (as part of the Iqamat-as-Salat), apparently that does not come from the Quran (book 63, hadith 3887). Besides, the Quran itself states that the Sunna must be followed by every Muslim (4:65).
    So what is your opinion about the fact that the prophet Muhammad, perfect example for Muslims to follow, 1) prescribed a practice that is causing a serious health crisis 2) ordered his men to brutally torture unbelievers?

    Like

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