Does Yoga Help Against Osteoarthritis?

Yoga is a practice that provides various benefits to those who practice it. But does it help osteoarthritis? Learn the answer in this article!
Does Yoga Help Against Osteoarthritis?

Last update: 20 May, 2021

Yoga can help against osteoarthritis.

Yoga is an ancient practice that comes from India and is considered a lifestyle rather than a sport or physical activity. The proven benefits of yoga are many and diverse, from maintaining a correct posture to helping us deal with daily stress and various diseases.

With that in mind, could yoga help against osteoarthritis. In the article below, we’ll look at the symptoms of this disease, as well as some simple routines that you can do at home.

What is osteoarthritis?

A woman holding her knee with both hands.
Osteoarthritis can cause pain in the area, as well as inflammation and stiffness, among other symptoms.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that most often occurs in people over 60 years of age, but it can occur in people of any age, mainly adults.

This disease affects the locomotor system and particularly compromises joint health. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • Pain when making movements
  • Tenderness in the area
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Synovitis
  • Deformity
  • Inflammation
  • Osteophytes

There are several risk factors that experts associate with osteoarthritis, such as age, gender (women are more prone), obesity, injuries, stress or overexertion (in sports and work activities), as well as genetic factors, and some metabolic diseases, for example, hemochromatosis.

Osteoarthritis is a disease that develops slowly and progressively and affects the quality of life of those who suffer from it. To date, there’s no cure.

There’s a range of treatments that help against osteoarthritis. They mainly target the symptoms and consist of the following:

  • Surgical intervention (joint replacement surgery)
  • Medications (analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections)
  • Physiotherapy and rehabilitation

Also, some habits help against osteoarthritis, contributing to its treatment and the management of symptoms, as well as to eventually preventing its progression.

Can yoga help against osteoarthritis?

The practice of yoga is among the activities that could help improve osteoarthritis symptoms. In this regard, the benefits of yoga relate to several factors, such as:

  • Strength and grip
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Stress management
  • Sense of well-being
  • Quality of life

Therefore, many recommend yoga as a complementary therapy to conventional treatments for osteoarthritis. But is there any scientific support for this? Let’s see what the research says about it.

Research on yoga in the treatment of osteoarthritis

A woman performing yoga in her home.
Controversy exists regarding the purported benefits of yoga in relieving osteoarthritis symptoms.

A 2019 review regarding the efficacy of yoga for the treatment of osteoarthritis analyzed studies on the topic. These covered 640 patients aged 50 to 80 years, predominantly women, with lower extremity osteoarthritis.

The results revealed little evidence for the positive effects of yoga for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain in comparison to other exercises. There was also no strong evidence of its effects on quality of life. Nevertheless, the researchers consider the use of yoga in knee osteoarthritis to be advisable.

In this regard, another review conducted a meta-analysis of the integrative effect of yoga practice in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The review focused on aspects such as pain reduction, functional recovery, and the general well-being of patients suffering from this ailment in the aforementioned joint.

A total of 13 clinical trials were reviewed, involving 1,557 patients with knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The results indicate that group yoga training is useful in reducing arthritic symptoms, promoting physical function, and enhancing general well-being.

In terms of clinical trials specifically, in a study involving 66 patients aged 30-75 years, also suffering from knee osteoarthritis, the effect of integrated approach yoga therapy (IAYT) was investigated.

The results obtained in the experimental group, which received the IAYT intervention, show that there were significant improvements in LHGS (left-hand grip strength) and knee extension, in comparison to the control group.

Finally, a study on the effects of Hatha Yoga on knee osteoarthritis found that after eight weeks of doing the exercises of this modality, the results showed that pain and other symptoms decreased, in addition to having an improved performance of daily activities and quality of life.

Yoga to help against osteoarthritis

There are a variety of yoga modalities. However, the Arthritis Foundation has some recommendations, as they consider some types of yoga more appropriate for arthritis patients. These include iyengar, anusara, kripalu, and viniyoga.

Also, on our own, there are certain yoga routines, exercises, and positions that we can perform to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Among them are the following:

The mountain pose to help against osteoarthritis

The mountain pose is a very simple exercise. You start with your big toes together and your heels slightly apart. While breathing deeply, opening the chest, place your hands, palm to palm, at the level of your heart. Then, raise them above your head and point your head towards the sky.

The warrior pose

The warrior is a yoga exercise that works the abdominal muscles, legs, and buttocks. It consists of the following: Stand firm with your feet separated so that there are approximately 4 feet between the heel of the one in front and the big toe of the one behind it.

Then, turn your leg (to the right side if it is the right one, and vice versa) and bend your knee, forming a 90° angle. Then, raise your hands upward, palms together, as much as possible. Take a deep breath and switch legs.

The shoemaker’s pose to help against osteoarthritis

Do this exercise sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Then, bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet together and trying to bring the heels towards your pelvis.

Let your knees fall to the sides, without forcing them downward, that is, without trying to open them more. Maintain this position for one minute. Then, stretch your legs and bring your feet to their original position.

The cane pose

Start in a position similar to the previous one: Sitting on the floor, with your legs together and stretched without bending your knees. If you need to, or feel more comfortable, you can use a mat to sit on.

Your back should remain firm and upright. Your hands should be out to your sides, palms facing forward. In the same way, your feet should be straight, with the soles also facing forward. Remain in this position for one minute.

So, does yoga help against osteoarthritis?

A woman performing a yoga pose.
Before starting to practice yoga, medical consultation is recommended.

If you suffer from osteoarthritis, yoga is a complementary therapy that you can consider as an alternative. But yoga can’t replace the treatment your doctor recommends.

It’s best to seek a professional instructor who has experience working with people with similar symptoms. Also, you should ask your doctor what exercises you can perform.

On the other hand, remember that yoga includes three aspects that we must take into account to obtain the greatest benefit:

  1. Awareness and breathing techniques
  2. Strength, flexibility, and balance movements
  3. Relaxation and meditation

Likewise, as with any other exercise, the practice of yoga should begin slowly and remain gentle until you feel your body warm up. Therefore, it’s important to make sure to warm up first.

Finally, it’s imperitive that you listen to your body and pay attention to the signals. If you feel pain or discomfort, it means you should stop. The idea is to reduce pain and improve your quality of life, not the other way around.

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