How to manage Osteoarthritis pain using Yoga Therapy
What causes Osteoarthritic pain?
Osteoarthritis affects the protective cartilage that normally allows the end of your bones to slide freely across each other, creating a smooth movement. With osteoarthritis the cartilage breaks down and allows the ends of the bones to rub against each other, creating friction instead of smooth movement. Timothy McCall, in ‘Yoga as Medicine’ (2007), describes how this leads to the uneven ends of bone rubbing and causing pain.
How do you know if you have osteoarthritis?
The pattern for osteoarthritis is that of stiffness in the morning, followed by gradual easing during the day, returning to stiffness later. Physiotherapists and other health professionals will often use this pattern (asking clients when their symptoms are worse/better) to determine whether you have osteoarthritis.
5 ways that Druva Yoga Therapy may help
1. Maintaining/ increasing range of movement
Pain from arthritis often leads to reluctance to move a particular part of the body, which in turn gradually reduces the range of movement (R.O.M.) available. This can quickly become a vicious downward spiral – movement causes pain, so movement is reduced, meaning that the next time even less movement is available.
Druva Yoga Therapy encourages movement through full R.O.M. by carefully selected yoga sequences and postures. The gentle, flowing nature of Dru Yoga lends itself admirably to fluid movement of the body. This distributes lubricating synovial fluid, continually secreted into the joint by its synovial lining, over the surface of the cartilage that caps the bones, helping the joints glide more freely.
2. Postural Awareness
Poor posture and lack of awareness of habitual movement patterns can lead to undue strain on other parts of the body. For example, if you have an arthritic right hip, you may stand with more of your weight on the left leg, which over time may create issues in your left hip and in your spine. Dru Yoga Therapy can bring a greater awareness of posture, helping to reduce these additional stressors.
In the previous example, through Dru Yoga Therapy training, you will learn how to balance your standing weight evenly between both legs in Tadasana (mountain pose), and this awareness then translates into everyday life.
3. Stress Reduction
People under stress often ‘hold’ their bodies in a pattern of tightness, without consciously realising that this is happening. Tight muscles can lead to muscle soreness and are often a major cause of arthritic pain. ‘Moving with the breath’, as encouraged in Dru Yoga, helps to release this habitual tension. Yoga practices including Relaxation, Breathing, and Meditation can also lead to recognition of this stress, and a subsequent releasing.
4. Pain Management
Meditation has been proven to help many people with pain (McCall, p.155). Management of pain through techniques such as Meditation, Pranayama (regulated breathing patterns) and Relaxation can help clients to live more comfortably with their condition.
I have had personal experience of these benefits, through both my own experiences and those of my clients living with chronic pain.
Pain is a much-researched but little understood phenomenon. The significant impact of the mind-body connection on pain perception, and how this can be affected by influences other than pharmaceutical, is still the subject of much debate.
However, despite these on-going medical debates, the most important criteria is whether a particular method helps you personally to reduce your own pain. Anecdotally, i.e. from conversations with my clients, and from my own experiences, I have found that these yoga-based methods can be of significant benefit.
5. Mind-Body Awareness
An understanding of the needs of the body in movement can lead to a fuller understanding that everything we do, say and think has an impact upon our physical body. This leads us to an awareness that we cannot treat just one aspect of our body in isolation e.g. arthritis, but need to adopt a holistic approach.
Changes in lifestyle, including food and supplement intake, are all part of managing your osteoarthritis effectively. Exercise can help to boost our ‘feel good’ hormones, leading to a more positive outlook, which in turn leads to an impetus to make positive change.
There is no ‘cure’ for Osteoarthritis. Anyone can get it, and although it is perhaps considered an older age condition, this is not necessarily the case. However, there are ways to address the condition, and Druva Yoga Therapy can provide a useful approach to increasing/ maintaining your mobility and creating an effective pain management strategy.
Founder - DRUVA Yoga Therapy & Wellbeing
McCall Timothy ‘Yoga as Medicine’ (2007)
Understanding the different types of arthritis: