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Yoga helps rheumatoid arthritis patients

29th May 2012

Six weeks of yoga practice can produce improvements in the wellbeing of younger people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a recent study.


Co-researcher Kirsten Lung, who researches pain at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said during a recent annual meeting of the American Pain Society that yoga appeared to be a "feasible, practical treatment" for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

According to physical therapist Kathleen Sluka, who researches pain at the University of Iowa, all kinds of physical activity can help with rheumatoid arthritis, so the results are not surprising.

RA is a chronic form of arthritis and an autoimmune disorder more common among women than among men.

Its earlier symptoms can include fatigue, joint pain, and stiffness. Later stages of the disease may feel like influenza, with muscle aches and loss of appetite.

But while joint and bone destruction can be prevented by early and effective treatment, researchers say that some RA drugs can carry risks for younger patients, and alternatives might be more desirable.

The study was focused around Iyengar yoga, in which practitioners can use blocks, straps, cushions, and other props to stretch and strengthen their muscles.

Working with a group of 26 women with RA ranging from 21 to 35 years old, the researchers assigned 11 of them to Iyengar yoga classes, with the remainder put on a waiting list for yoga classes.

The women had suffered from RA for an average of 10 and a half years.

After the six-week study period was up, both groups of women were asked about how they felt.

While the women on the waiting list experienced no improvements in their wellbeing, the group that had practised yoga said they were happier than when they started.

They also said their pain was not so hard to accept, and that their general health and energy levels had improved.

While the women who took part in the yoga class did not report experiencing less pain or disability, they still benefited, Lung said.

She speculated that the benefits might be greater if the yoga practice was kept up for longer than six sessions, the length of the study.

According to Sluka, physical exercise usually takes about eight weeks to yield significant effects.

She said all exercise strengthens muscles and prevents joints from moving in uncomfortable ways, as well as activating parts of the nervous system that contribute to pain reduction.

However, she said the results of such a small study could not be regarded as conclusive. The improvement in wellbeing could also be purely psychological, she added.

But she said the study could demonstrate to people with RA that they had another exercise option available to them.

She said other people might prefer to do weight-training or go for a run.

Research findings presented at medical conference are usually preliminary, as they have not yet been subjected to a peer-review process at a scientific journal.

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Tuesday 29th May 2012 @ 21:26

Supplementing with Glucosamine and other natural remedies like My Perfect Joints is an excellent way to deal with joint pain, without addictive or narcotic drugs.

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