YOGA - PART II: Ease Arthritis Pain through Stretching

The Arthritis Foundation recommends that those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA) keep moving as much as possible.  The more the joints are exercised, the better you will feel over time as you build stronger muscles and find that your joint pain actually diminishes.  There are yoga exercises that can be done just with hands or ankles, and there are yoga postures that can be done from a chair.  However you plan to practice, adapted yoga moves are a great way to ease the pain of arthritis.

Stretching Hands and Wrists

OA commonly settles in hands and wrists as we age, and keeping these sometimes over-used parts of the body stretched and in shape will also keep them functioning for years to come.

  • Just by simply clenching and unclenching the hands in slow, deliberate motions you can begin to alleviate pain.
  • Next, work on your writs by bending them up and then back slowly and purposefully.  Your range of movement will improve over time.

Work the Ankles

Sprains or strains and other injuries can have a cumulative effect and can lead to arthritis of the ankle.  Take a few moments to bend and rotate each ankle in one direction, and then the other, to improve movement and relieve pain.

Improve Neck and Shoulder Movement

If you are someone who tends to collect and hold tension in your neck and shoulders, try these yoga exercises to help the tension subside.

  • Neck: Stand or sit with your back straight.  Slowly drop your head forward until you can touch your chin to your chest or as low as possible.  Then bring your head up.  Next, tilt your head to the left, the up; tilt to the right, then up.  Now tilt to the back, then back up.  Repeat this exercise a few times.
  • Shoulders:  Find an elastic strap to use in this exercise, and start in a sitting position.  Sit up straight and raise your arms above your head, holding the ends of the strap in both hands.  Stretch your arms apart and inhale, then let go of the strap and exhale.  Now repeat these steps with your arms in front of you and then in back of you.  Repeat this exercise a few times. To view this exercise and other simple stretches, you can visit the website The ABC of Yoga.

More Yoga in a Chair

From a chair you can also do side stretches and leg lifts and other exercises to get in shape while easing the joint pain and inflammation caused by arthritis.  One website, Get Fit Where You Sit,you can find exercises for single chair or double chair yoga. There are also chair yoga poses that require two people and a set of exercises designed for hand weights.  Chair yoga is an adaptation that makes the benefits of flexibility and toning available to more people, regardless of age or activity level.  As with other forms of yoga, the breathing techniques are as essential as the poses themselves.

Easy Yoga to Ease Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation’s website offers a number of exercise videos at no charge.  You can learn at least eight different poses by watching separate videos.  By looking at the videos, you will see the correct way to perform each exercise for the optimal result.  This site also has free videos about tai chi, an abs exercises and general stretching from both sitting and standing positions.

If you’re interested in purchasing a DVD from a reliable expert, you may want to try Peggy Cappy’s Yoga for the Rest of Us – Easy Yoga for Arthritis. Cappy, who has appeared on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), also created a gentle yoga DVD especially for strengthening the back.
Medical practitioners reversed their recommendations for arthritis patents in the last several decades. Years ago, doctors thought nothing could be done to improve range of motion or pain levels and that activity would make symptoms worse.  Now that studies show both RA and OA can be greatly eased with the proper exercise, there are an increasing number of resources available to provide the right kind of yoga poses and other types of activities.  Regardless of your age or level of physical fitness, an easy yoga or chair yoga  program can help ease your pain.

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