Chair yoga may be a way for older adults with osteoarthritis to help relieve pain and improve daily function without the use of drugs, a new study finds.
Osteoarthritis affects more than 33 percent of people over the age of 65 and is the most common form of the arthritis in older adults.
A degenerative disease, osteoarthritis causes pain, joint stiffness and functional limitation of activities of daily living.
Although yoga is recommended to reduce joint pain, improve flexibility and balance, and reduce stress and tension, many older adults cannot participate in standing exercises because of lack of muscle strength, pain and balance as well as the fear of falling due to impaired balance.
However, a new study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., finds that chair yoga may be a way that these older adults can get the benefits of yoga in a safe and effective way.
For this study, the researchers randomly assigned 131 older adults, suffering from osteoarthritis in their lower extremities (hip, knee, ankle or foot) to either a chair yoga program known as “Sit ‘N’ Fit,” or a health education program.
Participants attended 45-minute sessions twice a week for eight weeks. Researchers measured pain, pain interference (how it affects one’s life), balance, gait speed, fatigue and functional ability, before, during and after the sessions.
Those in the chair yoga group, compared to those in the health education program, showed a greater reduction in pain and pain interference during their sessions, the researchers say.
Also, that pain reduction lasted for about three months after the chair yoga program was completed. The program was also associated with a reduction in fatigue and walking speed during the program, but not afterwards, the researchers say.
“Currently, the only treatment for osteoarthritis, which has no cure, includes lifestyle changes and pharmacologic treatments that are not without adverse events,” says study co-author Ruth McCaffrey, emeritus professor in FAU’s College of Nursing.
“The long-term goal of this research is to address the non-pharmacologic management of lower extremity osteoarthritis pain and physical function in older adults, and our study provides evidence that chair yoga may be an effective approach for achieving this goal,” she adds.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is the first randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of chair yoga on pain and physical function in older adults with osteoarthritis, the researchers say.
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