Can Yoga Improve My Arthritis Symptoms?
Summit physician assistant — and dedicated yoga practitioner — Kathryn Roggow, MHA, MPAS, PA-C, explains how yoga’s mind-body connection can make a real difference for people suffering with arthritis pain.
Arthritis is a very common, and very painful, condition. The swelling, stiffness, and inflammation combine to make movement difficult, reducing quality of life for millions of arthritis sufferers. Some people suffering with arthritis tend to avoid exercise because of the pain. But more and more evidence suggests that the opposite. Moving and exercising — even during an arthritis flare-up — can help reduce pain and stiffness. Yoga is well known for improving balance and flexibility, as well as calming the mind. But can yoga improve arthritis symptoms?
“Absolutely. Yoga is highly therapeutic. There is a lot of evidence that shows that yoga has not only physical benefits, but it also completely changes your brain, including how you respond to pain, particularly chronic pain,” said Kathryn Roggow, MHA, MPAS, PA-C, physician assistant at Summit.
Benefits of yoga for arthritis pain
Kate, who has been practicing yoga daily for five years, loves sharing yoga’s benefits with her patients, including her arthritis patients. For example, research shows that, over time, yoga can be just as effective for chronic pain as over-the-counter pain medication.
In addition to being great for the body, yoga, with its dependence on mindfulness — the mind-body-spirit connection — changes your brain’s composition. “Yoga reverses the loss of gray matter from aging and chronic pain. Yoga prevents those brain changes and can reverse the damage that chronic pain causes,” Kate said.
Some ideas to help you get started
At first, individuals generally find it very difficult to calm the mind and focus on breathing, as yoga requires. It can be difficult to be patient. And sometimes, people abandon yoga early on for that reason. That’s a mistake, according to Kate.
“When you start, your mind is everywhere — but that is the whole point. Yoga is a moving meditation. It involves retraining your brain to come back to the now moment, bringing you back into what is, being kind to your body, and finding self-awareness and acceptance,” Kate said.
Instead, try not to judge yourself. Each day is a new beginning, and the struggle to calm the mind is an essential part of any yoga practice, whether or not you have arthritis. There are many ways to get started, from smartphone apps to in-person yoga studios. The simplest first step? Search “yoga for beginners” on YouTube.
When to seek treatment for your arthritis
Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of a select few nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More yoga and arthritis resources for you:
The popularity of yoga can make it intimidating to start a yoga class with no prior experience. At Summit’s Health and Wellness Center, our certified yoga instructors will help you feel successful from your first class—even if you’ve never tried yoga before.
When your joints feel painful, it can be challenging to stick with your exercise program. Understanding the objectives behind your routine might be just the motivation you need.
Curious about yoga? Dr. Skendzel and his team have some suggestions for safely making yoga a part of your exercise program.