Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not a condition of aging or the ordinary wear and tear your musculoskeletal system experiences over the decades. Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious, sometimes debilitating, disorder of the immune system. It’s often associated with severe pain, joint damage and deformity, and loss of mobility. In severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to life-threatening complications, including lung inflammation, heart attack, and stroke. What this means, ultimately, is that this condition is a fierce adversary, one not to be taken lightly.
The good news is that there are things you can do to support your health, reduce your symptoms, and improve your overall quality of life while living with rheumatoid arthritis. One of the most beneficial of these self-care measures is the integration of yoga into your daily routine.
How Yoga Improves Rheumatoid arthritis: Every healthcare provider and rheumatoid arthritis patient understands the critical importance of both diet and exercise in controlling the symptoms and progression of rheumatoid arthritis. It can be difficult to maintain a diet and exercise plan with rheumatoid arthritis, but doing so can help to reduce musculoskeletal pain while maintaining, and even improving, range of motion.
In particular, yoga may be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis management. It’s thought to provide benefits such as increasing physical function and improving disease activity. And that’s in addition to the myriad mental and physical health benefits that yoga can provide. Likewise, because yoga significantly increases musculoskeletal strength, stability, and flexibility, it can be invaluable for preventing loss of physical function, which can help prevent falls.
Developing lean muscle also helps to support the joints, which can reduce pain. Studies have also shown that yoga can help to lubricate joints and muscles while also reducing damaging inflammation. Yoga can also slow disease progression in some rheumatoid arthritis patients. Ultimately, yoga may be able to help increase the overall quality of life for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Keep in mind that not all forms of yoga may have this impact. Gentler, lower-impact styles of yoga — such as restorative or Yin yoga — may be a better option than vigorous ones — such as hot or power yoga. Further, certain poses may be more beneficial for you and for relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis than others; it just depends on what feels best to you and your body.
The Mind & Body Connection: There’s no question about it, living with a chronic illness can be both stressful and demoralizing at times. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, you must contend with fatigue, pain, and joint stiffness. Ordinary daily tasks can feel insurmountable. On top of this, you may also have the anxiety associated with the condition itself, along with the often substantial side effects of treatment. It’s a lot to deal with, but yoga can be exceptionally helpful in managing stress and improving your sense of well-being. Prioritizing mental wellness is critical for everyone, but it’s especially important when you are contending with a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis, and any associated mental health conditions.
Practicing Prevention: Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t just affect the musculoskeletal system. Because it is a disorder of the soft tissues, almost every bodily system can be at risk. rheumatoid arthritis may attack the eyes, the skin, the blood vessels, or the organs. It can also increase your risk for heart and lung disease. This is why preventative health practices are essential to maintain both your longevity and your quality of life. In addition to keeping on top of your medical care with regular consultations and screenings with your mental and physical healthcare team, it’s also essential to cultivate a lifestyle that supports optimal wellbeing while reducing your unique health risks. This can include eating a well-balanced diet rich in key vitamins and minerals, getting sufficient sleep for your condition, and doing gentle exercise each day. Because yoga is a low-impact form of exercise, it’s unlikely to cause injury to your bones and joints, as other forms of exercise might. This can also make it significantly easier to establish and keep up with an exercise routine, as you don’t have to take time off to recover from previous workouts. Best of all, it can be used to facilitate other good health practices. For example, gentle yogic stretching, especially when combined with meditation, can be an ideal way to settle your mind and body down for a good night’s sleep.
The Takeaway: Few people truly understand the impact that rheumatoid arthritis can have on a person’s life until they’ve lived it. rheumatoid arthritis can not only deprive you of your ability to move and function normally, but it can also shorten your lifespan. Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Yoga may well be one of your most powerful weapons in the fight against rheumatoid arthritis. It can help maintain or even increase mobility, improve balance, strength, and flexibility, and reduce joint and muscle pain. Yoga can also reduce stress and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients. This not only helps to enhance disease management and quality of life, but it can also significantly reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening complications.
By Katie Brenneman
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie.
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