Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

Yoga 'can improve arthritis symptoms and mood'

A new US study has demonstrated the health benefits that yoga can provide for people with various forms of arthritis.

It is believed to be the largest randomised trial to examine the effect of yoga on physical and psychological health and quality of life among people with arthritis to date. 

Conducted by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the research recruited 75 people with knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, with participants randomly assigned to either standard care or eight weeks of twice-weekly yoga classes, plus a weekly practice session at home.

Participants' physical and mental wellbeing was assessed before and after the yoga sessions. 

According to results published in the Journal of Rheumatology, those taking part in the yoga sessions reported a 20 per cent improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function, including their ability to complete physical tasks at work and home.

Their walking speed also improved to a smaller extent, though there was little difference between the groups in tests of balance and upper body strength. Moreover, it was shown that the improvements delivered among those involved in the yoga sessions were still apparent nine months later.

As part of the study, the researchers also developed a checklist to make it easier for doctors to safely recommend yoga to their patients.

Dr Susan Bartlett, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and associate professor at McGill University, said: "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."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK welcomed the findings of the US study, saying: "We've found that a combination of exercises work best for people with arthritis, so as well as strengthening and fitness exercise, stretching exercises, also known as flexibility or range of movement exercises, will stretch the ligaments and tendons and keep the joints moving. Swimming, hydrotherapy, walking and cycling are also good ways for people with arthritis to keep fit.

"Yoga obviously is great for stretching the joints and muscles, but we'd always suggest that people with arthritis check first with their GP before embarking on a course of yoga, as it might not be suitable or appropriate for everyone."

Arthritis Research UK recently funded a trial of yoga and back pain, which showed that a 12-week course of specifically-designed poses helped people with low back pain manage their condition more effectively without any serious side effects.

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Posted on Thursday 17th September 2015