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Reducing severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis

by: Lucy Wyndham
Yoga can Reduce the Severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are over 1.3 million Americans battling rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – one of the most common autoimmune disorders that is three times more prevalent in women than in men. The condition also affects around 300,000 children in the U.S. Current treatments for RA include NSAIDs, DMARDs, and physical and occupational therapy. A new study has shown, moreover, that just eight weeks of intensive yoga practice significantly reduces the severity of physical and psychological symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Because the pain and discomfort associated with RA can be a big stumbling block for patients wishing to carry out a normal life, work, enjoy sport, and attend school or college, it is vital for patients to embrace a plethora of methods in order to keep its effects to a minimum.

How does Yoga Improve RA Symptoms?

In the study mentioned above, participants with active RA took yoga classes for 120 minutes a day, five days a week, for a total of two months. The researchers found significant improvements in biomarkers of inflammation, cellular health integrity, neuroplasticity, and immune modulation. They also found that participants were less depressed. Disease activity and the level of disability were lower, indicating that yoga is an effective natural method of aiding in RA management. Not only did yoga improve function, but also improved general quality of life and participants’ outlook. The researchers noted that further research would be needed to discover why yoga has an ability to affect cellular function in a positive way. Currently, it can be conclusively stated that this millenary practice can boost the body’s own immunological tolerance.

Why is Yoga Particularly Suitable for Patients with RA?

In addition to its physiological and psychological effects, yoga is an ideal practise to pursue for patients with RA, since most do not develop symptoms until they are in their 60s. Unlike  many other physical pursuits, yoga can easily be adapted to a senior’s activity level. Moreover, those who lack stability or who are worried about falls can consider chair yoga. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has shown that chair yoga is an effective alternative treatment for osteoarthritis – since it reduces pain and improves physical function. Although RA is far more complex than osteoarthritis, the use of chairs for those who have difficulty with movement and stability is of interest. Yoga is additionally attractive from an economic standpoint. Regular yoga essentials are simple and accessible, and many community centers offer free or affordable classes that seniors can avail of.

When Should Yoga be Avoided?

As is the case with all new activities, yoga should be approved by doctors before seniors or those with severe RA embark upon it. Depending on what other conditions a person may have, some poses may additionally have to be avoided. One 2019 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, for instance found that people with osteoporosis should avoid spinal poses, since these may flex the spine excessively and potentially cause compression fractures in people with fragile bones. 

If you are a senior with RA and you wish to add yoga to your strategy, ask your doctor about the type and frequency of yoga that is suitable for you. In general, yoga has powerful benefits for your physical and mental health. It is also a well known stress buster, significantly dropping stress hormone levels among people of all ages.

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