Historically, people with joint pain and swelling were advised by doctors not to move, the rationale was "If it hurts, don't move it." We now know that inactivity is one of the worst responses for someone with arthritis.
Arthritis restricts movement, whereas yoga increases range of movement, Fact.
Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of pain and disability in the UK and an estimated 8.75 million people over the age of 45 have sought treatment for this condition.
Osteoarthritis, a painful and often debilitating condition caused by decades of wear and tear on the joints, is considered to be one the side effects of living longer. By the time we reach age sixty-five, X-rays for at last a third of us will show some signs of osteoarthritis, the most common of a group of diseases collectively referred to as arthritis.
Arthritis is so common in our culture that most people consider the pain and discomfort it brings to be a normal part of aging. Arthritis makes normal activities increasingly painful and difficult.
The word arthritis means "joint inflammation, which may include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joints. Joint weakness, instability and visible deformities may occur, depending on the location of the joint involved.
Arthritis is classified into two main types. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder, resulting in stiffness in the joints and muscles, joint erosion, and pain. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder that erodes the cartilage in joints, which leads to bones rubbing together. Osteoarthritis frequently occurs in people who are overweight or whose joints are painful from extreme overuse.
In spite of the prevalence of arthritis, be careful not to jump to the conclusion that your achy joints are necessarily due to it. Overuse and injuries can also result in tendonitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other fairly common conditions that are unrelated to arthritis.
To remain healthy, muscles and joints must move and bear weight or they will lose strength. This weakness, coupled with joint swelling, will make the joints unstable. Joints in this condition are vulnerable to dislocation, increased injury and pain. Thus, regular gentle movement helps to reduce pain and to maintain mobility.
Physical movement promotes health in many systems of the body. It increases circulation, which in turn reduces swelling and promotes delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. With immobilisation, a cycle of deterioration begins.
Because movement is crucial to so many physiological processes, the arthritic person's overall health tends to deteriorate without it. The normal functioning of the immune system declines, infections and illnesses occur, and the person often becomes frustrated and depressed. This cycle is self-perpetuating.
When someone comes to me with arthritis, and they have the green light from their medical practitioner, I teach them how to practice yoga with the support of yoga props, (objects, such as a wall, a sturdy table or a chair, a folded blanket, a firm pillow, a strap or other items that makes practicing yoga safer and easier). Yoga props are especially helpful for older beginners who may have balance problems.
Medical professionals are increasingly advising regular gentle exercise for people with arthritis because it tones muscles and reduces stiffness in joints. Yoga is an ideal form of exercise for this because its movements are fluid and adaptable. Yoga loosens muscles that have been tightened by inactivity, stress and tension. In yoga, we progress gradually, beginning with simple stretches and strengthening poses and advancing to more difficult postures only as we become stronger and more flexible.
If necessary, you can begin with gentle movements while sitting in a chair or lying on the floor. You can gradually add weight-bearing standing postures, with the support of a wall, counter or table, wall ropes, chairs, blocks, and other props.
The weight-bearing yoga standing poses are among the key poses for safely increasing range of motion in all the joints as well as increasing strength and flexibility. Yoga standing poses are valuable for strengthening the quadriceps without wear and tear on the hip and knee joints.
Practicing yoga can help improve respiration throughout the day. Calm, slow, rhythmic breathing helps to release both physical and emotional tension by flooding the body and brain with oxygen. The regular, daily practice of deep relaxation is restorative to every cell of the body.
I encourage those of you with arthritis to seek the help of an experienced teacher who can help you learn to distinguish between good pain and bad pain and to make yoga part of your daily life.
My own popular chair yoga classes are helping many people that are restricted in their movement, to feel better in themselves.