As a consequence of inflammation and trauma, joints swell and over time become deformed. At that point the bones no longer slide over one another smoothly. This painful impediment to movement is what we recognize as arthritis. It has many causes, from autoimmune (Rheumatoid arthritis) to traumatic to reaction to life’s normal stresses (osteoarthritis),to metabolic causes such as gout. Treatment reduces the inflammation and gives pain relief.
Arthritis is, of course, a problem with joints. Our belief is: first the diagnosis, then the treatment. There is no substitute for a good physical examination by an experienced physician, and appropriate imaging and diagnostic studies. Dr. Fishman’s book “Yoga for Arthritis,” written with Ellen Saltonstall, stresses the diagnostic element, and then goes on with helpful treatments with next to no side-effects.
In our practice yoga and Alexander therapy, acupuncture and oral and injected medications have kept most arthritic pain at bay for years.
Yoga is particularly valuable in arthritis: whatever else yoga does, it stretches, and that counters the chief effect of all kinds of arthritis, limitation of the range of motion of a joint. After a learning period, yoga can be practiced at ones own place and time, and self-suited to a degree of frequency, intensity and length of time that is effective and not too terrible.
A further proven benefit of yoga is its production of PGC-1alpha, a powerful antiiflammatory liberated from muscles after moderate exercise. (Handschin C and Spiegelman BM. Nature. (454) July 24, 2008: 463-469.) This potent molecule reduces or temporarily arrests the arthritic process, and also reduces the incidence of pulmonary inflammatory disease, genital, gastrointestinal and skin cancer, metabolic conditions such as diabetes, and swelling, wherever it might occur in the body.