One in five American adults live with some form of arthritis. If you happen to be one of them, you may have tried prescription medications, pain relievers and heating pads to abate the ache in your joints.
There is no cure for the ailment, and without the right kind of care and attention, arthritis can lead to extreme physical discomfort and decreased mobility. Your doctor may have suggested walking and stretching, but if you're sick of those activities there's hopeful news: new research has found that a yoga practice can improve arthritis symptoms and put you in a better mood, too.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine prescribed eight weeks of yoga to 75 adults who had one of two common forms of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis or knee osteoarthritis (arthritis in the knee). Participants took two hour-long classes and performed one at-home session each week. After the eight weeks, researchers found a significant improvement in the participants' physical comfort, physical and psychological health and general vitality. Previous studies have found that a yoga practice can help reduce inflammation in the joints -- one of the causes of some types of arthritis. While the JHM study's sample size is small, the new findings suggest even modified yoga positions can ease daily discomforts.
"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," Susan J. Bartlett, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and associate professor at McGill University, and one of the study's authors, said in a press release.
Unlike many physical pursuits, yoga has a low barrier to entry: Beginner classes welcome every level of skill, and a good teacher will show new participants how to modify a position to their needs. If you suffer from arthritis or any kind of injury, for that matter, be sure to tell your instructor before you start the class so you can get the most out of your "om."
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