Yoga could reduce severity of rheumatoid arthritis: Study

While there is currently no cure for people living with rheumatoid arthritis, new research has shown yoga can reduce both psychological and physical symptoms of the disease. Source: Getty

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling of the joints. While the immune system fights off infections to keep the body healthy, it attacks the lining of the joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers are now hopeful that yoga could be an effective way of reducing the severity of symptoms associated with this type of arthritis. Published in the Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience Journal, researchers explained that an eight-week intensive yoga practice significantly decreases the severity of both physical and psychological symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers noted improvements in levels of certain inflammatory biomarkers in patients studied and found yoga had promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative potential when it came to improving the health of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

“Our findings show measurable improvements for the patients in the test group, suggesting an immune-regulatory role of yoga practice in the treatment of RA,” lead investigator Rima Dada said in a statement. “An intensive yoga regimen concurrent with routine drug therapy induced molecular remission and re-established immunological tolerance. In addition, it reduced the severity of depression by promoting neuroplasticity.”

Other symptoms people with rheumatoid arthritis can develop include high disease activity, depression, disability and a reduced quality of life. The study was a mind-body intervention randomised trial, include active and control groups.

Researchers analysed the effects of practicing two hours of yoga, five days a week for eight weeks on 72 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Both test and control groups were undergoing routine drug therapies.

The results found yoga significantly improved systemic biomarkers of neuroplasticity, inflammation, immune-modulation, cellular health integrity and ageing, as well as the positive clinical outcome in the reduction of depression severity, disease activity and disability quotient.

Previous research has analysed the role yoga can play when it comes to help manage symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, but this study is one of the first to look at how yoga practice affects the systemic biomarkers of inflammation, cellular ageing, and oxidative stress.

“Our results provide evidence that yoga positively modifies the pathobiology of autoimmunity at cellular and molecular levels by targeting mind-body communications,” Dada explained. “Further research is needed for the exploration of possible mechanisms underlying the cumulative effect of yoga on multiple pathways at a cellular level.

According to the research, current medical therapies have a limited scope and don’t often cure the psychological component of the disease. They also come with an array of potential side effects.

Depression can impact a patient’s compliance and adherence to medical treatment, resulting in worse health outcomes and increases disease severity. Improvement in psychological health and reductions in severity made the yoga group more compliant and able to perform more daily chores without much difficulty.

“This study offers a new option. Pharmacological treatments can be supplemented with alternative and complementary interventions like yoga to alleviate the symptoms at both physical and psychosomatic levels,” Dada said.

It’s always important to talk about treatment plans with a GP or health professional.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you living with rheumatoid arthritis?

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