Yoga can help ease arthritis symptoms, finds Johns Hopkins medical study

yoga pose
CC BY 2.0 Wendy Cope

Every year, the benefits of the ancient practice of yoga are being better understood by modern science. A recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine finds that yoga can help improve the symptoms of two common types of arthritis.

The randomized trial assigned 75 patients who suffer from either rheumatoid arthritis or knee osteoarthritis to a yoga group or a non-yoga group. The yoga group went to two weekly yoga classes, and were asked to do one home session of yoga per week. All of the study participants were screened by doctors before the study, and continued to take their regular medications.

After eight weeks, the yoga group reported a 20 percent improvement in pain and physical function, as well as a modest improvement in walking speed, when compared to the control group. But not only did the yoga practitioners report feeling less pain, but they also reported improvements in mood and energy levels.

That’s not all that surprising, as past research shows yoga has mood-boosting power. A 2010 study from Boston University found that people who practiced yoga experienced less anxiety than people who walk for exercise. And other studies have suggested that yoga has benefits for people suffering from dementia, breast cancer survivors and people with epilepsy.

And although there’s no cure for arthritis, we do know that staying active can help.

The researchers at Johns Hopkins recommend that people with arthritis who are considering yoga should consult with their doctors before signing up. They should also seek a gentle class. "Find a teacher who asks the right questions about limitations and works closely with you as an individual,” recommends Clifton Bingham, director of the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. “Practice acceptance of where you are and what your body can do on any given day."

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