Can yoga help with arthritis? We know from other research that yoga is a great exercise and that due to its low impact nature it can be great for chronic pain, but it is true for arthritis? Arthritis is a common disease that is usually characterized by pain and stiffness in the joints caused by inflammation. There are many types of arthritis so there is no universal treatment, but recent studies show that certain exercises can be beneficial to relieve some of the symptoms and even prevent it from flaring up too much.
Just because you arthritis, that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the benefits of a healthy yoga practice that may help with arthritis.
YOGA BENEFITS FOR ARTHRITIS
Yoga practice takes many forms, but most of them promote increasing flexibility, improving overall mobility and lowering stress through physical effort and meditative techniques. Some studies focusing on arthritis have shown that yoga can reduce arthritis-related pain, improve joint function and build strength in ligaments that support joints.
In 2005, Dr Sharon Kolasinki, MD conducted a pilot study where she focused on the effect of modified Iyengar yoga on osteoarthritis of the knees. The results of the study showed a significant statistical reduction of WOMAC* pain in participants when compared to their pre-course assessment.  A small study by Dr Subhadra Evans, PhD, takes a similar approach with young adults who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. The quantitative results indicated significant improvements in pain, pain disability, depression, mental health, vitality, and self-efficacy. 
MINDFULNESS & MEDIATION FOR RELIEF
Diving into the mindfulness and meditation side of yoga can have significant positive psychological effect on those suffering with arthritis - it can help manage pain and deal with anxiety that often accompanies a chronic disease such as arthritis. Dr Evans says in her study about its participants: “They all said that day-to-day levels of pain hadn’t changed, but their relationship to the pain had changed. They were able to get through daily activities much more effectively, and had much more energy.”
Yoga provides an added benefit of helping with weight management which is another factor that could alleviate pain in the joints. Yoga offers people with arthritis an exercise option that is not too strenuous and therefore can be performed regularly on a long term basis.
YOGA MOVES TO AVOID with ARTHRITIS
A word of warning though - while certain types of yoga can promote recovery and maintenance when it comes to arthritis, it does not mean it’s always harmless. Standing balances can be challenging for those struggling with the ankle joint, spending a long time in meditative poses (e.g. Yin yoga or Kundalini) can be difficult to sit through for arthritis sufferers, and demanding styles such as Ashtanga Vinyasa can have a negative effect on the joints as the repetitive nature of the style sometimes results in overuse injuries even in previously healthy practitioners.
Dr Kolasinksi touches upon this in her study, suggesting that some yoga poses may need to be modified for people with arthritis by using a chair, a block, a strap or other yoga props to help maintain balance during some poses.
Remember, even if you are working with a yoga teacher specializing in arthritis, only you can set your own limits and determine what works for your body.
This blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure a medical condition. Please consult a medical professional before starting an exercise routine.
Aromalief is a brand dedicated to helping women of any age to feel their best as they fight chronic pain, anxiety, and life many challenges.
*WOMAC stands for The Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index - a widely used set of standardized questionnaires used by health professionals to evaluate the condition of patients with osteoarthritis, including pain, stiffness, and physical functioning of the joints.
This blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure illnesses. Please consult a medical professional.
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- Iyengar yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees: a pilot study by
Kolasinski SL, 2005 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16131293/ 2. Iyengar Yoga for Young Adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Results From aMixed-Methods Pilot Study by Evans Subhadra, 2010 - https://www.jpsmjournal.com/article/S0885-3924(10)00141-7/abstract