Yoga Therapy for Arthritis Pain
Arthritis refers to several distinctive types of diseases and infections whose common symptoms are the inflammation of the joints. The most prevalent ones are osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease associated with aging and rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease affecting younger people. In some cases it can be the outcome of a trauma or the symptom of an infectious disease. Painful and disabling, arthritis affects one or, in some cases several joints of the body. The most afflicted one are the big joints supporting the weight of the body like the hips, knees and ankles and small joints like the fingers and toes. The many symptoms include pain, aches, stiffness, swelling, spasm, redness, heat and inability to move the joint and are all caused by the degeneration and the inflammation of the soft tissues that cover and protect the joints. If not treated appropriately the disease will ultimately permanently destroy the joint as the bones and the cartilage will have fragmented.
Conventional western medicine, despite of its exhaustive understanding of the human body, has not been very successful up till now with its treatment of arthritis. Drug treatments have improved in the last few years but arthritis nonetheless cannot be cured.
Studies show that yoga improves joint health, physical functioning, mental and emotional well-being. Perhaps most importantly, yoga has an important positive effect on quality of life. People with arthritis may also enjoy yoga more than traditional forms of exercise, and exercise enjoyment is an important predictor of consistent practice. Yoga can play an important role in reducing stress and frustration that results from pain and disability, and increasing positive feelings and wellbeing.
Yoga therapy focuses on the roots of illnesses instead of trying to fix the symptoms. Diseases begin in either the body or the mind but more often diseases begin in the mind and then travel to the body. All diseases whether they are physical or psychological are caused by imbalances. Practicing yoga helps balance all of the body’s systems, including its immune defenses. Correcting immune system problems can greatly reduce the instance of pain.
The general rule for arthritis patient (and people in general) is that if it hurts, stop. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” does not apply to yoga, particularly if you have activity limitations. When doing backbends, keep them relatively small and be aware not to hyper-extend the neck, keeping the head in line with the rest of the spine. For those with arthritis of the hip, be cautious when doing “hip openers” or poses with extreme external rotation of the hips. Generally, you will notice pain if you are going too far with the pose, but sometimes the effects are not felt until the next day. It is important to be gentle with your practice, especially at first. If you do not experience any pain after a few days, you can decide to gradually increase the intensity of the poses. As with any condition, it is important to be cautious and pay attention to your body. Also, be sure to consult your doctor and instructor if you experience any pain or difficulty resulting from yoga practice.
Evon Stone Rubenstein R.Y.T 200, YTRx