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Stanford University School of Medicine

A look at managing osteoarthritis

“Don’t take osteoarthritis lying down,” a recently published article in the New York Times, offers sound reasons to mobilize your joints and get moving now. If you’re fortunate to live a long life, chances are you’ll develop arthritis, Jane E. Brody writes, but much can be done to delay its onset or alleviate its symptoms:

One of the biggest mistakes people make with arthritis is to limit movement of the affected joint, which leads to stiffness and weakness that only makes matters worse. The resulting decline in neuromuscular function, especially balance and walking speed, is a major risk factor for falls and fall injuries that too often lead to costly hip replacements and lasting disability.

Brody calls out swimming, walking, cycling, strength-training and tai chi as some potentially suitable forms of exercise for people living with joint pain or stiffness. I was surprised she didn’t mention yoga, too. (I’m a yoga teacher.) I've written here in the past about a yoga teacher training module that addressed the needs of patients with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis; now I offer a class specifically for people with arthritis. Interestingly, even in general group classes, many of my students are working with movement limitations and find yoga to be a helpful way to exercise safely.

So, if certain forms of movement can help prevent or manage arthritis, what aggravates it? Carrying excess weight is a factor affecting inflammation, as are diet, exercise and joint injury, Brody writes. She continues:

Research in both laboratory animals and people by Dr. William Robinson and Dr. Mark Genovese, specialists in immunology and rheumatology at Stanford University, has suggested that injuries and age-related wear and tear ignite low-grade inflammation that further damages the joints. They are seeking ways to selectively deter the inflammatory effect in the hopes of forestalling further joint damage.

The full story is worth a read.

Emily Hite is a digital media associate at Stanford University.

Previously: Measuring the physical effects of yoga for seniorsExploring the use of yoga to improve the health and strength of bones and Exercise programs shown to decrease pain, improve health in group of older adults and Can yoga help women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis?
Photo by Bliss Flow Yoga

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