Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes joint inflammation and pain, can significantly impact quality of life. While there is no cure for it, early treatment and support could help reduce the symptoms. One of the recommendations is engaging in physical activity, specifically yoga. Now, a new study shows that yoga may help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
An important marker of RA is the imbalance of pro-inflammatory T helper 17 (Th17) cells and anti-inflammatory regulatory T (Treg) cells. This is referred to as Th17/Treg cell imbalance, according to Medical News Today. The study, published in Scientific Reports, eight weeks of practising yoga significantly lowered disease activity, stabilised inflammation-related biomarkers, and maintained Th17/Treg cell balance. The findings provide a scientific basis for integrating yoga as a therapy option for RA treatment.
“The study offers molecular evidence for yoga as an adjunct to standard of care, which opens up the exciting possibility of healthcare providers recommending yoga programs with treatment,” Dr Nikki Tugnet, a rheumatologist and yoga teacher, not involved in the study told Medical News Today.
The yoga intervention comprised asanas (physical postures), pranayama (regulated breathing techniques), dhyana (meditation), and savasana (relaxation techniques). This was followed by interactive counselling sessions on yoga, stress management, nutrition, as well as personal lifestyle management, the research paper explains.
The study aims to provide a better understanding of how yoga helps RA patients as it examines its impact beyond symptomatic relief and into how yoga affects the immune system, Medical News Today reports.
Previous studies have also investigated the relationship between yoga and RA. For instance, in 2019, a study published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience showed that eight weeks of intensive yoga practice significantly decreases the severity of physical and psychological symptoms in patients with active RA, as reported by Science Daily. The researchers found improvements in the levels of certain inflammatory biomarkers and assessments of functional status, which highlighted yoga's preventive, curative, and rehabilitative potential for RA patients.
Another study, led by researchers from John Hopkins Medicine, showed yoga classes improved the physical and mental well-being of people with two common forms of arthritis, knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.