8 proven ways yoga improves rheumatoid arthritis at the molecular level

Rheumatoid arthritis is a crippling disease affecting over 1.3 million Americans – three times more women than men.

And, despite understanding that the condition is due to a dysfunction of the immune system, the medical community has yet to find the ultimate cause behind RA and therefore has no cure.

If you’re a victim of RA, you know it can leave you exhausted, depressed and in severe pain, with joint swelling and stiffness. Even worse, when you go to your doctor for help, the likelihood of finding relief safely is almost non-existent.

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That’s because there’s not a lot they can do to help people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In fact, your choices really come down to constantly taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, which come with side effects ranging from stomach pain, diarrhea and nausea, to kidney and liver complications or moving on to disease-modifying agents which can have some of the same side effects as the NSAIDs plus risk of infection, hair loss, and even possible eye and blood problems.

And, you could suffer all of these side effects and still have symptoms that are out of control.

Luckily, a new study published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience has found that RA patients can find relief using an ancient practice to supplement their current RA treatments — with no additional side effects involved.

Downward dog, anyone?

Existing research has evaluated the role of yoga as an effective intervention to assist in the management of RA with respect to clinical symptoms, quality of life, psychosocial outcomes, and functional ability. However, no previous studies had delved into how yoga practice affects the systemic biomarkers of inflammation, cellular aging, and oxidative stress in RA patients.

That’s where researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, India came in…

They analyzed the effects of practicing 120 minutes of yoga, five days a week for eight weeks on 72 RA patients who were also taking disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

And, they found that embracing the ancient practice of yoga offered significant improvements in systemic biomarkers of:

  1. Neuroplasticity — which would lead to less pain and depression.
  2. Inflammation — to decrease swelling in joints.
  3. Immune-modulation — to reduce the levels of immune system attack on joint capsules.
  4. Cellular health integrity — To help joints to heal.
  5. And, aging — This one speaks for itself.

Practicing yoga also resulted in the positive clinical outcome of reduction in:

  1. Depression severity
  2. Disease activity
  3. Disability quotient

According to the researchers, the study demonstrated yoga’s promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative potential for achieving optimal health.

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Improvements at the molecular level

“Our results provide evidence that yoga positively modifies the pathobiology of autoimmunity at cellular and molecular levels by targeting mind-body communications,” explained lead investigator, Rima Dada, MD, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India. “Yoga facilitates the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms mediated through a variety of downstream pathways and bring about natural immunological tolerance.”

Dr. Dada concluded, “This study offers a new option. Pharmacological treatments can be supplemented with alternative and complementary interventions like yoga to alleviate the symptoms at both physical and psychosomatic levels.”

So, if you’re ready to overcome the symptoms you suffer daily due to rheumatoid arthritis, add yoga into your regular routine. Although the study used 120 minutes, five days a week, you can always start small and work up. And, before you start, be sure to take a look at the six tips that could save you from a yoga injury.

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  1. RA Facts: What are the Latest Statistics on Rheumatoid Arthritis? — Rheumatoid Arthritis
  2. Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis With Disease-Modifying Drugs (DMARDs) — WebMD
  3. What Are NSAIDs for Rheumatoid Arthritis? — WebMD
  4. Yoga regimen reduces severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms — IOS Press
  5. Neuroplasticity of Sensory and Sympathetic Nerve Fibers in the Painful Arthritic JointArthritis & Rheumatology
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.