The Salat ritual could have health benefits as well as spiritual ones for the world's 1.6bn muslims
The prayer ritual, the Salat, is one of the five obligatory elements of the faith and is supposed to be performed daily by 1.6 billion muslims all over the world.
Now scientists have shown that if it is done regularly and properly, with the right knee and back angles, it can have a great effect on pain reduction.
It incorporates movements also found in Christian and Jewish prayer rituals along with yoga and physical therapy.
Professor and Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Department Chair Mohammad Khasawneh at the University of Binghamton carried out the interfaith research along with colleagues from the Penn State Behrend and the University of Minnesota Crookston.
Prayer can eliminate physical stress and anxiety
Professor Mohammad Khasawneh
Prof Khasawneh said: "One way to think about the movements is that they are similar to those of yoga or physical therapy intervention exercises used to treat low back pain.
"Physical health is influenced by socio-economic, lifestyle and religious factors.
"Moreover, studies indicate that there is a strong association between prayer and vigilance about maintaining a physically healthy lifestyle.
The movements of the Salat are comparable to yoga and physical therapy movements
"Prayer can eliminate physical stress and anxiety, while there is also research that indicates prayer rituals can be considered an effective clinical treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal dysfunction."
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Researchers looked at the movements of computer-generated digital human models of healthy Indian, Asian, and American men and women, and models with lower back pain.
They found that the bowing portion is the most stressful on the lower back, but for those with lower back pain, using proper knee and back angles during the ritual can reduce the discomfort.
Prof Khasawneh added: "The maximum compression forces created during prayer postures is much lower than National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) safety limits, and the movements can be safely considered a clinical treatment for low back pain, as it requires different movements of the human body on a regular basis.
Professor Khasawneh said the movements of the Salat can be used as a legitimate clinical treatment
"Based on the pain level, a combination of back and knee angles can be identified with the kneeling posture (sujud) increasing the elasticity of joints.
"It is recommended for these individuals to spend more time in the kneeling posture."
And of course doing this five times a day has added benefit.
The paper, published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering, says pain relief is only possible if the prayer is done correctly.
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Eid-Al-Fitr festival, marking the end of the holy Fasting month of Ramadan. Muslims around the world will celebrate tonight as Ramadam comes to an end.
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Indonesian Muslims offering prayers on the third night of the holy month of Ramadan at the Istiqlal grand mosque in Jakarta
The researchers said that using incorrect angles and movements can actually increase pain.
And they conceded that for those with back pain, maintaining exact prayer postures may not be possible.
According to Islamic traditions and practices, if individuals cannot stand, they are allowed to pray seated or laying.
Using incorrect angles or movements, however, could actually increase levels of back pain
But if they are able to stand, they should maintain correct postures as much as they can.
They said that further study is needed for the physically handicapped and pregnant women to find the best movements for these groups.
The group plans to further validate the findings with physical experiments using sensors and cameras to track the stresses on the individual body parts during the prayer ritual.
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