February 16, 2017 by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute  
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50876122 - woman yoga instructor showing new asana to smiling mature couple

Hatha Yoga and Osteoarthritis
by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute

Tid Bits of Info.

  • “Hatha” can be translated as “forceful” or “willful.”
  • Hatha yoga is a series of held poses or asanas.
  • Mind-body aspect of Hatha yoga helps with focus and relaxation along with all of the other benefits of exercise.
  • 650,000 knee replacements are performed yearly.
  • Ask your Physical Therapist to incorporate Hatha yoga into your rehabilitation program.

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) can feel like a jail sentence, limiting every aspect of life. It doesn’t have to be a jail sentence. Many healthcare professionals are helping patients find successful strategies to alleviate pain and life a more active lifestyle. Hatha yoga shows great promise for helping OA patients grow stronger, more flexible and live more comfortably from day to day.

OA is a degenerative joint condition cause by joint damage over time. During the course of our lives, the joint is often subjected to too much sheer or compression force, causing damage. Since the damage to the joint is often due to the cumulative effect of these forces, it can develop and worsen over time. When the force is too great, the Hyaline cartilage could be crushed or “sheered-off.” If this happens, the cartilage does not have the ability to “heal” or re-generate.  The joint that suffers from OA will not be as strong and will be less flexible.  The nerves that control it will not communicate and stabilize or move it as well as they did when the joint was healthy.

Weight bearing joints such as hips, knees and back (lumbar spine) are most commonly damaged by compression or sheer force of life’s activities. At the same time, any moving joint can experience damage and develop osteoarthritis. The severe pain associated with OA causes some people to simply quit moving and adopt an extremely sedentary lifestyle. This lack of movement often leads to other health problems. Healthcare professionals are always researching the best treatment options to help OA patients keep moving.

Recently a study was performed comparing the effects of cardiovascular and strengthening exercises to a Hatha yoga routine on the symptoms of OA in knee joints.   The study found that the OA patients that performed a Hatha yoga routine on a regular basis during the study were more successful at controlling their pain levels and became more comfortable while performing every day activities.  This reduction in pain enabled these participants to report that they were capable of performing tasks following the yoga routine that they were previously unable to do.

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Hatha yoga has been around for centuries and this style of yoga combines the mind and body with the use of poses (asanas) that are held to develop strength and control. The goal of the routine is to create balance of the mind and body. The held poses are ways to develop strength, flexibility and muscular endurance.  While holding the poses, one is to work on total body control.  They should try to relax and control their breathing.   The routine is a great way to reduce stress and develop an inner calm that was not present prior to doing it.

The use of Hatha yoga was found to alleviate a great deal of the pain that some patients had that were suffering from OA of the knees.  They developed more movement and their functional capabilities improved.  They were able to walk longer and with better gait mechanics.   The routine consists of many poses in various positions including lying on the floor, sitting and standing.   People performing the routine were encouraged to modify their poses which enabled them to complete all of the routine.  The whole body is exercised and the meditative aspect of the session helps to bring focus to their situation.  They responded well and were able to increase their daily activity level due to less pain and more confidence.  These people reported feeling stronger, having better balance, more flexibility and less fear of falling. Getting up from the floor became easy although some had to modify due to pain or lack of motion in their knee (s) due to OA.

OA can be devastating and debilitating but with proper exercise and treatment a person suffering from it can live a healthy, active lifestyle.  Seeking the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist who specializes in orthopaedic conditions will help to initiate a treatment plan.   Some Physical Therapists are encouraging their patients to get involved in a yoga routine so they can experience the many benefits that commonly occur when performing a routine on a regular basis.

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