Washington, Sept 16: Practicing yoga can improve the physical and mental well being of people with arthritis, a painful joint disorder for which there is currently no cure, a new study has claimed.
Researchers report that 8 weeks of yoga classes improved the physical and mental wellbeing of people with two common forms of arthritis, knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The study 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.
"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," said Susan J Bartlett, an adjunct associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. Arthritis, the leading cause of disability, affects 1 in 5 adults, most of whom are under 65 years of age.
There is no cure for arthritis, but one important way to manage arthritis is to remain active. Yet up to 90 per cent of people with arthritis are less active than public health guidelines suggest, perhaps due to arthritis symptoms such as pain and stiffness, but also because they are unsure of how best to remain active.
The study recruited 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Participants were randomly assigned to either a wait list 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 session by researchers who did not know which group the participants had been assigned to. Compared with the control group, those doing yoga 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.
Walking speed also improved to a smaller extent, though there was little difference between the groups in tests of balance and upper body strength.
Improvements in those who completed yoga was still apparent nine months later. Participants were screened by their doctors prior to joining the study, and continued to take their regular arthritis medication during the study.
The researchers have developed a checklist to make it easier for doctors to safely recommend yoga to their patients, said Clifton O Bingham III, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Centre.
People with arthritis who are considering yoga should "talk with their doctors about which specific joints are of concern, and about modifications to poses," said Bingham.
The study was published in the Journal of Rheumatology.