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The confronting and challenging discovery and its positive and negative impacts on individuals in ra

Advertisement Yoga, a practice of exercises, breathing techniques and meditation that started in ancient India, has been touted as a way to boost physical and mental health for 5,000 years. But does yoga really work to improve physical arthritis symptoms like pain and stiffness, or psychological issues like stress and anxiety?

In fact, yoga is proven to help people with arthritis improve many physical and psychological symptoms.

Genetics of rheumatoid arthritis: confronting complexity

Recent scientific studies of people with various types of arthritis show that regular yoga practice can help reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function and lower stress and tension to promote better sleep. Yoga comes in many different forms, but generally involves positioning the body in various poses along with coordinated breathing and meditation exercises.

Sharon Kolasinski, MD, a professor of clinical medicine and a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis OA. She found that subjects taking 90-minute, modified Iyengar yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, as well as noticeable improvements in joint stiffness. Yoga poses were modified to accommodate the fact that people with knee OA may not be able to bend their joints as far as others, and Iyengar yoga allows participants to use chairs, blocks or other aids to help them balance during poses.

Participants filled out questionnaires to measure pain, disability, mood, function and other symptoms, and also sat down for personal interviews with the researchers to gauge their feelings about the yoga program and its effects on their RA.

Because it allows the use of aids, Iyengar yoga, in particular, is often recommended for people with arthritis. Kolasinski adds that yoga also can help a person with arthritis build muscle strength and improve balance.

Yoga Benefits for Arthritis

In addition, yoga offers people with arthritis a form of exercise that is enjoyable enough to do regularly. Yoga provides an exercise option. Yoga has other benefits for people with stiff joints due to arthritis. People with arthritis may also need to use a chair, a block, a strap or other aids to help maintain balance during some poses, she says. Before starting a yoga regimen, speak to your rheumatologist or primary-care physician to ensure that yoga is right for you.

In addition, discuss what type of modifications might be appropriate for your unique condition, Dr. Many forms of arthritis, especially autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, involve inflammation, a process that causes joint swelling, redness, and pain and eventually destroys the joint components.

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Yoga may be a gentle, soothing form of physical activity for someone with RA or a similar disease, but can regular yoga practice actually help reduce inflammation? Kolasinski says that yoga practice does not reduce inflammation, a 2010 study led by researcher Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, at Ohio State University in Columbus, may prove differently.

Kiecolt-Glaser measured key blood markers for inflammation in a study of 50 healthy women practicing basic Hatha yoga postures and found promising results. The women were divided between yoga novices and experts, and the more experienced yoga practitioners showed lower levels of inflammation-causing proteins like interleukin-6 in their blood.

These included C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis alpha and interleukin-6, all proteins that may play a role in inflammation in many forms of arthritis, including RA. The women who were new to yoga had higher amounts of these markers in their blood than those who practiced yoga regularly. Yoga has a lot of potential benefits.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Age, weight, physical function and other health behaviors were very similar among the participants. All reported improved mood after yoga, she says. Other recent studies do show that yoga can help people with RA improve symptoms. Twenty-six out of 47 study subjects participated in 12 yoga sessions and reported significant improvements in measurements of disease activity.

Sixty-four men and women with the disease were given tests for hand grip strength, rheumatoid factor a blood marker often associated with inflammation and C-reactive protein.

All the participants showed reduced disability scores on the standardized Health Assessment Questionnaire measuring function, and reduced rheumatoid factor levels. In addition, some participants showed improved hand grip strength following a week of yoga. An older study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 also showed that yoga could provide relief for people with hand osteoarthritis, a common condition that can impair daily activities like dressing, driving a car or cooking.

An eight-week yoga regimen improved hand pain, tenderness and finger range of motion in the participants. Finding the right instructor is key, says Howard. A good instructor not only understands that you have arthritis and shows you how to modify the moves, but should help create an overall program that fits with your goals.

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  2. But does yoga really work to improve physical arthritis symptoms like pain and stiffness, or psychological issues like stress and anxiety? That was all I wanted to do.
  3. Other healthy practices, such as not smoking and getting regular medical checkups, also are very important for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. The completion of the Human Genome Project is going to accelerate and complicate the process of gene discovery.
  4. The intent is to provide an information resource that will steadily increase in value as genetic information accumulates on these families to permit genotype-phenotype correlations. It should be remembered that the sample size requirements are substantial to detect these kinds of modest associations.

If you are less interested in the mind-body connection or meditation aspects of yoga than the physical poses and flexibility benefits, find an instructor or class that focuses on what you need. Once considered an obscure, even esoteric practice, yoga is gaining in popularity among a wide variety of people with various health conditions. Just be careful not to overdo it, and be mindful if you experience any pain or discomfort.

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