Yoga linked to arthritic relief

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in adults. This debilitating condition affects one in five adults, and without appropriate management arthritis affects not only mobility, but also the ability to participate in activities, overall health and wellbeing, and quality of life.

One of the most effective ways to manage arthritis is to remain active; however this can be difficult as many people who suffer from arthritis experience pain and stiffness.

A new study has found that yoga can be a safe and effective way of managing arthritis. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US affirm that regular yoga classes improve the physical and mental wellbeing of people with two common forms of arthritis, knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Susan Bartlett, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, explains that yoga is particularly well suited to people with arthritis because it combines physical activity with stress management and relaxation techniques, and respects individual limitations that can change from day to day.

The study involved 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Participants were divided into two groups, one of which engaged in twice-weekly yoga classes and one that did not. Researchers then assessed the physical and mental wellbeing of all participants before and after each yoga session.

Those participating in yoga reported a 20 per cent improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function, including their ability to complete tasks at work and at home. Those who engaged in yoga also recorded an improvement in walking speed. Furthermore, it was reported that these improvements had lasting effects, as they were still apparent nine months after the trial.

Associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, Clifton Bingham, ensured that safety was a top priority in the study. He explained that many health professionals have concerns about how yoga might affect vulnerable joints given the emphasis on changing positions and on being flexible. Bingham recommended that people with arthritis who are considering yoga should consult with their doctors about which specific joints are of concern and about modifications to poses, and should find a teacher who understands individual limitations. Beginning with gentle yoga classes, and learning to accept what your body can and cannot do on any given day, can be a highly effective strategy in alleviating some of the symptoms of arthritis.

Source: Journal of Rheumatology