Study shows Yoga can help arthritis patients

For The News-Letter

A study conducted recently at the Hopkins medical campus found that practicing yoga has a positive effect on people who suffer from arthritis. The study, which focused on patients with two common forms of arthritis (knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), is so far the largest randomized trial studying the effects of yoga on arthritis.

According to Susan J. Bartlett, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Hopkins and associate professor at McGill University, yoga is increasing in popularity as a complementary therapy. She added that one in 10 people in the U.S. now practice yoga to improve either health or fitness.

“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,” Bartlett said.

Arthritis, which affects one in five adults, is the nation’s leading cause of disability. The disease hinders mobility and is detrimental to overall health and well-being. People who suffer from the disease often find it difficult to participate in physical activities and up to 90 percent of people with arthritis are less active than public health guidelines suggest.

The researchers for this study recruited 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The participants were randomly assigned either to a waitlist (the control group) or to eight weeks of twice-a-week yoga classes and a weekly practice session at home.

Researchers assessed the physical and mental states of the participants before and after yoga sessions and found that those participating in yoga reported a 20 percent improvement in energy levels, mood and physical function and amount of pain. These participants also improved their ability to complete physical tasks at work and at home.

Although researchers saw little difference between the control and experimental groups in terms of balance and upper body strength, they did see a slight improvement in walking speed in the yoga group. Furthermore researchers continued to assess the patients months after the start of the study and found that improvements in the group that completed yoga training were still apparent nine months later.

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