Rheumatoid Arthritis is the next most common form of arthritis after osteoarthritis. It affects around 400, 000 people in Australia and in the UK, and a staggering 1.3 million people in the USA live with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Statistics also reveal that 1% of the world population has this disease.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that results in pain and inflammation of the joints and sometimes other areas of the body. Many Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers tend to cope okay with this disease but in its extreme form, the inflammation causes the joints to become painful, hot and swollen resulting in restricted movement. Stiffness in the joints is common, especially in the morning, and some suffer weight loss, weak muscles, and flu- like symptoms.
Some people confuse osteoarthritis with rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s joints.
For the best rheumatoid arthritis pain treatment, early diagnosis is essential for the best result. The main pharmaceutical drugs used are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) – control pain and inflammation
- Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD) promote disease remission
Alternative treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Conventional Western medical treatments may include over-the-counter and prescription drugs, physical therapy, and surgeries whereas integrative medicine treatment for rheumatoid arthritis uses a combination of conventional Western medical treatments and alternative treatments such as:
- Manual manipulation
- Massage therapy
- Nutritional medicine
- Various forms of exercise, such as tai chi and yoga
Yoga for Rheumatoid arthritis
As previously stated, arthritis restricts movement but yoga increases range of motion therefore it follows that yoga is the ideal therapy for arthritis pain. This is echoed by a recent complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) study from Johns Hopkins University in the US. In this study, participants diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis attended two 60-minute yoga classes a week for eight weeks, furthermore, they practiced an additional hour of yoga each week at home. The yoga teachers were certified yoga instructors who had experience teaching people with physical limitations; the program consisted of yoga poses to improve joint mobility.
After 8-weeks, 20% of the participants reported improvements in:
- Ability to complete physical tasks at work and home
Importantly, these benefits were still present nine months after the study’s end.
The main message
This CAM study further confirms how yoga can help people suffering from mild to moderate rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is essential that the appropriate yoga poses are included in the program and care is taken to avoid overstretching. Furthermore, it is critical that skilled yoga instructor facilitates the training who can tailor targeted asanas to the individual.