Thank you to Healthline and David Novak for today's guest post highlighting some promising research from a 2008 Jons Hopkins study on the efficacy of yoga for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Prior to my total hip replacement in 2011, I had extensive osteoarthritis in a joint affected by birth defect and subsequent injury, Yoga was indispensable in managing the condition and in post-surgical recovery. Read about that experience in the most commented upon YogaGuide blog entry ever. Has yoga helped you manage joint pain and stiffness? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Arthritis symptoms such as fatigue, pain and stiffness are often eased by yoga. In fact, some people swear it is the only thing that helps. Rheumatoid (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) are the two main types of arthritis. Both cause inflammation and together they are the most common cause of disability in the U.S., affecting millions of adults. Rheumatoid is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself like fibromyalgia and polymyalgia. Osteoarthritis is often associated with a cartilage deficit or injury around the joints.
The predominant symptom of both kinds of arthritis is inflammation. Once joints are inflamed, they cause considerable pain but there are natural ways you can curb or prevent joint pain and inflammation. Exercise could be just what you need to feel better. If you have actively inflamed joints you do need to rest them, but once your doctor permits you to get active again yoga is your best choice for bringing motion and circulation to your joints.
Yoga can safely provide pain relief and build muscle strength. When joints are stiff and painful exercise might be the last thing on your mind. Yet when you have rheumatoid arthritis, exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do to take care of yourself and your joints. Yoga is the best choice for exercising with RA and provides many levels of activity to choose from.
The Practice of Yoga
Yoga is prescribed to many RA sufferers because the discipline provides poses, breathing and relaxation techniques which significantly reduce joint swelling and tenderness. Yoga facilitates the improvement of your mental, physical and emotional health. Yoga also optimizes organ function and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Other benefits associated with the practice of yoga include more balanced digestion and metabolism, improved flexibility and balance, better focus and concentration, mind relaxation, greater respiration and energy levels, and increased muscle mass. Yoga also promotes the connection between the mind, body and spirit, as is perhaps the most effective and natural method for significantly reducing symptoms linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
Yoga Benefits for RA Based on Science
Recently, John Hopkins conducted a research study dividing a group of sedentary adults with RA into two groups: one group participated in an eight-week program of yoga and the other group did nothing. Besides the traditional yoga poses, the first group was also instructed to perform deep breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques, all disciplines of yoga.
The study concluded that those who practiced yoga had fewer swollen and tender joints and less inflammation than they did before starting class. The group of people who did not practice yoga experienced no significant changes in their joints. And while the mechanism for yoga’s efficacy with RA patients remains unknown, researchers are eager to understand why yoga has this positive effect. Time and research are required to investigate the various components of yoga.
Yoga Helps You Live Longer
People who practice yoga, as well as traditional fitness, have been shown to live longer - with or without rheumatoid arthritis. Regular exercise can actually reduce overall pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga and fitness can also keep your bones strong and many RA sufferers have thinning bones. Exercise helps bones keep their strength, and in some cases, builds more bone density. Yoga also maintains muscle strength and actually builds muscle. More muscle around the joints prevents injury and decreases the inflammation.
Maintaining a consistent fitness program, including yoga, improves functional ability and lets you do more for yourself. People with arthritis who practice yoga feel better about themselves and are better able to cope with their condition, both mentally and physically.