Does Yoga Work for Osteoarthritis Pain? New Study Says Yes!

It’s estimated that about 50 million people in the U.S. are living with the effects of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These are chronic diseases that can have a drastic effect on your quality of life. Researchers have spent years looking at what works and what doesn’t. These studies have produced some interesting results, one being that yoga could be a great choice for RA and OA patients.

The origin of yoga can be traced back more than 5,000 years. It’s an ancient practice, but one that only started gaining real popularity here after the 1950s. Nearly 10 percent of American adults practice yoga for a number of reasons. Many find that it’s helpful for relieving stress and getting exercise.

Arthritis patients practicing yoga

Growing studies show that people are reporting symptom relief for the following medical conditions:

  • Low back pain
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Asthma
  • COPD

Although the number of studies on it are limited, research suggests that this is a beneficial form of exercise for someone who has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

A New Study on Yoga

Dr. Susan J. Bartlett is an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHU). She and her team of researchers enrolled 75 study participants who had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, each of patient had lived a mostly sedentary lifestyle.

This last detail was very important since it’s estimated that about 90 percent of arthritis patients don’t get the recommended amount of exercise. You should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Dr. Bartlett felt her study group accurately represented her the majority of OA and RA patients. There are many reasons why patients don’t get the necessary exercise, including:

  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Misinformation about their condition
  • Unsure what exercises are safe for their arthritis

Dr. Bartlett explained that “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.”

Is Yoga Safe for Arthritis Patients?

The participants in Dr. Bartlett’s clinical trial were randomly assigned to take part in two one-hour yoga sessions each week for eight weeks. The research team also asked them to practice yoga at home once a week. Some participants were randomly placed on a waitlist.

Yoga instructor works with arthritis patients

Each yoga session was specifically designed to meet each patient’s needs and match their capabilities. The instructors involved were all very experienced and had been trained to work with arthritic participants.

The research team also obtained approval from each participant’s doctor to take part in this clinical trial. They were all asked to continue taking their normal arthritis medication throughout the course of the study. The research team reported that:

  • The patients who participated in the weekly yoga sessions reported a 20 percent improvement in mood, energy and pain levels compared to the patients on the waitlist.
  • They also reported that performing everyday tasks around the home and at work became that much easier.
  • These stated improvements were still viable almost a year after the study


if you are interested in trying yoga, we do recommend that you talk to your physician about how this might help your OA or RA symptoms. This is an opportunity to talk about which of your joints need the most attention. That way, you can identify specific yoga poses that can done or even modified in order to match your abilities and stay safe.

We also recommend that you do some research and find a local yoga instructor who has experience working with arthritis patients. There are instructors who are willing to work with you individually in order to get the best results.



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