Yoga helps ease arthritis pain

When rheumatoid arthritis pain kicks in good, it's only natural to want crawl into a corner and hide until the worst of it starts to pass.

But believe it or not, that's actually a recipe for more misery.

What you really need is more movement -- gentle stretches, slow exercises, and even a brisk walk, because studies have shown that more activity can actually spell less pain for RA sufferers.

And now, the latest research confirms that the gentle stretches of yoga can also help put you back in charge of your own condition.

UCLA researchers randomly assigned 26 women who had been battling RA for an average of 10.5 years to either six weeks of Iyengar yoga classes or a waiting list for yoga classes.

The women on the waiting list, naturally, reported no change in their condition. Those who took the classes, however, reported better general health and more overall energy.

The study presented at the American Pain Society's annual meeting didn't find that yoga actually reduced the levels of pain, only that it helped women deal with that pain better.

But at six weeks, the study may have been too short -- because other studies have found more pain-beating benefits from yoga over the longer term. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University, for example, found that eight weeks of yoga can ease pain as well as joint swelling and tenderness in rheumatoid patients.

The secret isn't the yoga itself -- it's in the movement.

Other studies have found that the gentle exercises of tai chi and Pilates can produce a similar effect, so feel free to take your pick. In addition, bodywork techniques such as massage therapy and reflexology have also helped patients overcome both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

None of these techniques will reverse the damage or restore cartilage -- so don't rely on them alone. Try them in conjunction with the natural treatments I'll be writing to you about here in House Calls as well as in my Health Revelations newsletter.