Yoga Helpful for Rheumatoid Arthritis

A program of yoga poses, breathing and relaxation significantly reduces joint tenderness and swelling for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to research funded in part by the Arthritis Foundation.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore randomly divided a group of 30 sedentary adults with RA into two groups: one group participated in an eight-week program of yoga and the other was put on a waiting list and served as the control. Those in the yoga group took two one-hour classes per week and were instructed to practice at home as well. Traditional yoga poses were modified as needed to accommodate for limitations due to RA. Also included in the sessions were deep breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques.

The research team found that those who participated in eight weeks of yoga classes had significantly fewer tender and swollen joints than they did before starting class. Those in the waitlist control group saw no significant changes in their tender and swollen joint counts.

Arthritis Foundation grant recipient Steffany Haaz, MFA, says, “We have previously reported that yoga helps people to feel better, and we wanted to make sure it wasn't harmful to arthritic joints. So, we were glad to find that there actually seems to be improvement in joint symptoms for RA patients. The next big question is figuring out how and why yoga might be having this effect, since it is such a multi-faceted activity.”

Haaz S, et al. The effect of yoga on clinical parameters in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Abstract presented at American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting. San Francisco, October 25-29, 2008.

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