Arthritis Sufferers can often find Relief in Yoga

For Americans young and old, arthritis can be a debilitating medical problem.  The condition, which hinders movement in the joints of the body and the connecting tissues of the muscles, can cause pain and stiffness in those who are afflicted.  Arthritis can affect job performance, relaxation and the overall quality of life.

According to the Center for Disease Control, arthritis affects more than 46 million people in the United States and is present in all race and ethnic groups.  The risk of arthritis increases as we get older and affects more women than men.

All of us probably know someone who suffers from a form of arthritis, or you may suffer from it yourself.  But there may be a way to help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the condition: yoga.

Although testing in this area is not extensive, yoga has still been found to have some positive effects, both psychological and physical, for the sufferers of arthritis.  The Arthritis Center of Johns Hopkins University reports that while there have only been a few scientific studies done on the effect of yoga on rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, the ones that have been done are “promising”, with results that show “some improvement in joint health, physical functioning, and mental/emotional well-being.  …Perhaps most importantly, yoga has an important positive effect on quality of life.  People with arthritis may also enjoy yoga more than traditional forms of exercise… ."  The Johns Hopkins research adds that more than 75 studies from various science institutions have been published regarding yoga and its effect on arthritis and all of them show that the practice is a "safe and effective" method of increasing muscle strength and flexibility, the two areas that may affect the sufferers of arthritis the most.

Regular physical activity, doctors agree, is an important part of the treatment of arthritis and may promote joint health.  However, demanding exercise such as weight training and running, which put a great deal of stress on joints and muscles, may actually make the condition worse.  By contract, an activity such as yoga, with its gentle movements designed to promote flexibility, may be the perfect solution for those who seek exercise that is not stressful but still beneficial to arthritis.  Also, patients who participate in yoga often stick with this form of exercise longer than other forms, an important fact since studies show that 50 percent of sedentary people drop out of exercise sessions within six months.

Physicians also point to the mental benefits of practicing yoga with regards to arthritis.  Feelings of depression are common with people afflicted with arthritis (particularly young people) who are coping with decreased mobility.  For people suffering from depression associated with the condition, doctors say, yoga can help them mentally as well as physically.

Doctors report that yoga can give arthritis sufferers a mental clarity that can help them to develop positive energy and keep feelings of depression low.  Yoga has also been proven to aid the immune system as well, which is a great benefit since some types of arthritis can affect the immune as well.  Doctors conclude that yoga can have a positive affect on the quality of life for an arthritis sufferer.

Doctors and yoga instructors point out that there are certain poses and movements that arthritis sufferers should avoid.  Arthritis sufferers should avoid backbends unless they involve a minimal amount of movement and keep their heads in line with their spinal column to avoid hyperextending their neck.  Arthritis sufferers should use caution when performing hip-related poses (hip openers), including those poses that call for extreme external rotation of the hips. And both doctors and yoga instructors stress that if you are feeling pain during a yoga session, stop immediately.  Those who suffer from arthritis should use restraint during their first yoga session and be aware of any pain or discomfort they may feel the next day; it's not uncommon to not feel pain until the day after a yoga session.  If an arthritis patient feels no pain after their first yoga session, they may choose to slowly increase the depth and intensity of the movement.

If you suffer from arthritis, ask your doctor about how participating in yoga can help you alleviate the pain of arthritis.

Check out Yoga in Kamloops for more yoga info.

Another highly recommended article is Yoga Targets Total Wellbeing