With over 3.85 million Australians suffering from arthritis, significant research is being undertaken into prevention and pain management for the disease. While there are currently no cures for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, clinical research shows that specialised yoga can help minimise pain and has several physical and psychological benefits for those living with it. Recently opened Wisdom Physiotherapy in Nedlands is now offering evidence-based yoga programs tailored specifically to arthritis patients.
Regular yoga practice can improve muscle strength and endurance, joint position sense and balance and increase mobility and flexibility. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety as well as promoting general well-being. Recent studies into the benefits of yoga for arthritis sufferers are showing positive correlations between properly instructed gentle yoga exercise and improvements in physical and mental health and the ability to manage pain.
So many arthritis sufferers spend their days in pain and become increasingly inactive as a result of the disease
Studies undertaken with hundreds of patients at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, showed that patients who performed yoga regularly had reductions in pain levels, improved physical movement, less morning stiffness and reduced levels of depression. While these trials are still new, researchers were encouraged by the initial results.
The John Hopkins University in Baltimore has developed an evidence-based program incorporating gentle movements, breathing and stress management techniques designed specifically for arthritis patients. Jane Leslie, a Physiotherapist, Yoga and Clinical Pilates specialist at Wisdom Physiotherapy in Nedlands, has brought this program to Western Australia and is excited about the future of yoga for arthritis.
Jane has worked with the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Foundation (WA) since 2013 and has seen the debilitating affects the disease can have. “So many sufferers spend their days in pain and become increasingly inactive as a result of the disease”.
“We know that physical activity is essential for arthritis management and preserving mobility in joints, however running, cycling and other impact sports can often be too painful,” says Jane.
“By introducing yoga as a regular part of a patient’s exercise routine, those living with arthritis can experience the proven benefits of exercise and regain some mobility and function in a safe way with low impact, low velocity movements ideal for joint health”.
“Yoga can improve our ability to relax and manage stress, reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood and energy”
The fact that the latest research suggests there is a simple and enjoyable way for these people to safely increase physical activity, while lowering pain levels through a properly designed yoga practice is a big step in arthritis research,” says Jane.
Yoga is also known to reduce the stress and frustration felt by arthritis patients who have reduced physical capabilities. Many arthritis sufferers go through bouts of depression as they becoming increasingly immobile and experience high levels of pain on a regular basis.
Jane says, “Yoga can improve our ability to relax and manage stress, reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood and energy. Yoga programs have been shown to have a high adherence rate, perhaps associated with greater levels of enjoyment than some other forms of exercise. This means participants are more likely to continue yoga and make it a part of their life. ”
Wisdom Physiotherapy offers an eight-week yoga for arthritis course using simple poses and breathing techniques to steadily increase movement, reduce pain and improve mental wellbeing. Each class is restricted to small groups of four participants. Private yoga sessions are also available.