Yoga 'could offer arthritis relief'
Yoga could provide relief for some of the millions of people who suffer from arthritis, scientists have suggested.
A study carried out in the United States found people with arthritis who practised yoga three times a week had about a 20% improvement in physical health, along with similar improvements in pain, energy, mood and carrying out day-to-day activities and tasks.
Arthritis is a condition that affects around 10 million people in the UK. It causes pain and inflammation in joints.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Rheumatology, saw 75 people with either knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis randomly assigned to either a control group or eight weeks of twice-weekly yoga classes, plus a weekly practice session at home.
Participants' physical and mental wellbeing was assessed before and after the yoga session by researchers who did not know which group the participants had been assigned to.
Compared with the control group, those doing yoga reported a 20% improvement in pain, energy levels, mood and physical function, including their ability to complete physical tasks at work and home.
Walking speed also improved to a smaller extent, but there was little difference between the groups in tests of balance and upper body strength.
The study authors said improvements in those who completed yoga were still apparent nine months later.
Susan J Bartlett, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, s aid: "There's a real surge of interest in yoga as a complementary therapy, with one in 10 people in the US now practising yoga to improve their health and fitness.
"Yoga may be especially well suited to people with arthritis because it combines physical activity with potent stress management and relaxation techniques, and focuses on respecting limitations that can change from day to day."
Researchers said people with arthritis who are considering yoga should discuss with their doctor which specific joints are of concern and ensure their teacher knows their limits.