The daily pain of many arthritis conditions can cause sufferers to give up favorite pastimes to ease their achy joints. Unfortunately, instead of providing relief, the decrease in activity actually perpetuates a cycle of pain, stiffness and joint dysfunction. Yoga has become the “new” go-to exercise for its many therapeutic benefits, despite being thousands of years old. According to a Yoga Journal study, over 20 million Americans are now practicing annually. But can a downward-dog really help relieve your arthritis pain?
What Is Yoga?
Yoga began in ancient India over 5,000 years ago. The modern interpretation of the practice includes a series of breathing techniques, meditation, and physical exercises. They all serve to calm and condition the mind and body. There are many different styles of a yoga practice, but they all generally involve positioning the body in various poses and are combined with focused breathing. Many forms are beginner friendly. A qualified instructor can assist you in tailoring a practice around any initial physical limitations.
Benefits of Yoga for Arthritis Pain
Because yoga is a no-impact activity, it’s gentle enough for anyone to practice with the right support and modifications. Holding or moving into various poses builds muscle strength which can improve balance and take pressure off of sensitive joints, and easing into simple stretches can help improve joint flexibility, mobility, and function. Yoga also has tremendous stress management benefits, teaching students how to relax when they’re experiencing pain. According to Dr. Sharon Kolasinski, MD, professor of clinical medicine and a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, “Yoga is definitely one option for people with arthritis pain. Not only for the exercise benefits, but it’s also beneficial in the mind/body area, promoting relaxation and stress reduction. Yoga enhances pain management, thereby improving function.”
How Can You Safely Begin a Yoga Practice?
When beginning yoga for arthritis pain, the following guidelines can help you do it safely:
- Start Slow: It’s best to begin with a gentler style of yoga, such as Hatha, Iyengar or Restorative. More difficult, vigorous practices can irritate already inflamed or damaged joints.
- Keep Moving: A flow class like Vinyasa, or one that fluidly progresses from posture to posture, may be more tolerable than a class where poses are held statically for longer periods of time. In any case, never hold a pose that causes you any pain, and don’t move into any discomfort in your body.
- Practice Later: With some types of arthritis pain, joints can be especially stiff and tender in the morning. Waiting until the afternoon to practice will allow your muscles and joints time to loosen up a bit. That can make the activity more comfortable and enjoyable.
- Keep a Journal: A fantastic way to measure your progress and to see the benefits of yoga for arthritis pain is to keep track of pain, disability, function and mood after each class and over the course of a series. In a 2010 study by Ohio State University Columbus, participants that regularly practiced yoga had less physiological reaction to stressors, and reported lower levels of anxiety and tension. By reducing a negative mood, you can also reduce pain.
Has Pain Paused Your Active Lifestyle?
At Envista Medical, our caring, highly trained team of medical doctors, chiropractors, and other providers have one goal: to help you live a pain-free life. Contact us today to learn how we can work with you to develop a holistic plan that uses non-surgical, minimally invasive methods for your pain relief.