Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms Can Improve Through Yoga


RA patients who do yoga demonstrate benefits in health related quality of life measures.

Doing yoga improved rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis and mood for female adults, according to research published in the Journal of Rheumatology.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine examined 75 sedentary adults aged 18 years or older with RA or knee osteoarthritis randomly assigned to 8 weeks of twice weekly, 60 minute yoga class with one at home practice per week or a wait list.

The researchers wanted to evaluate the effect of integral based hatha yoga in the sedentary arthritis patients. The poses used in the classes were modified for individualized needs.

The researchers measured the participants for physical health, fitness, mood, stress, self-efficacy, health related quality of life, and RA disease activity at baseline and at 9 months follow up period.

Most of the patients were female (96%), white (55%), and college educated (51%). The average disease duration was about 9 years, and about half of the patients (49%) had RA. After 8 weeks, the physical component summary (PCS) was significantly higher in the yoga group, as well as higher walking capacity, and positive affect, but lower Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.

The yoga group also demonstrated benefits of health related quality of life such as measures in physical, pain, general health, vitality, and mental health scales. Factors like balance, grip strength, and flexibility were similar between both the yoga and waitlist groups.

“There’s a real surge of interest in yoga as a complementary therapy, with one in 10 people in the U.S. now practicing yoga to improve their health and fitness,” Susan J. Bartlett, PhD, explained in a press release. “Yoga may be especially well suited to people with arthritis because it combines physical activity with potent stress management and relaxation techniques, and focuses on respecting limitations that can change from day to day.”

Out of the 28 waitlist patients, 22 completed yoga programs. All patients who participated in yoga made improvements in PCS, flexibility, 6 minute walk distance, psychological and health related quality of life domains at 8 weeks, as well as 9 months later at follow up.

There were 7 adverse events, though none were associated with yoga.

“For people with other conditions, yoga has been shown to improve pain, pain related disability and mood,” added Clifton O. Bingham III, MD. “But there were no well controlled trial of yoga that could tell us if it was safe and effective for people with arthritis, and many health professionals have concerns about how yoga might affect vulnerable joints given the emphasis on changing positions and on being flexible. Find a teacher who asks the right questions about limitations and works closely with you as an individual. Start with gentle yoga classes. Practice acceptance of where you are and what your body can do on any given day.”

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