Many people turn to yoga as a way to reduce pain caused by inflammatory diseases including heart diseases, diabetes mellitus and cancer. Symptoms from one of the inflammatory disease, known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), can be managed by eight weeks of yoga practice that can further improve the quality of life, says a recent study conducted by Indian researchers. The findings of the study have been published in the Frontiers in Psychology: Health Psychology.
The research team from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has aimed to devise a holistic approach rather than pharmacotherapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which is the most common type of autoimmune disorder that affects the joints and causes them to swell and become painful.
The autoimmune diseases are developed when the tissues of the body are mistakenly attacked by their immune system. The pain and stiffness in patients with RA usually worsen with rest. The worst-hit places in the body are the wrists and small joints of the hand.
Moreover, an estimated published by American College of Rheumatology says that 54.4 million adults from the United States (US) are living with RA. The condition is more common in women as compared to men.
However, the team did a randomized controlled trial in which the researchers targeted a sample that was comprised of 66 patients with RA to check if mind-body interventions can be beneficial for them.
Therefore, they chose yoga as a mind-body relaxation technique. Yoga can be described as the joining of the human consciousness to the divine consciousness which is used as a relaxation technique involving breath control, meditation, and different body posture to relax the muscles.
Later, the team divided the data into two groups. The first group had those participants that followed the eight yoga-weeks whereas the second group had those RA patients who did not join yoga-weeks.
Areas of Assessment During Eight Yoga Weeks
The team aimed to measure three main areas during a routine medical therapy that included a yoga-based lifestyle in patients with RA.
- psycho-neuro-immune markers that included BDNF, DHEAS, β-endorphin, and sirtuin
- gene expression patterns included IL-6, TNF-α, NFKB1, TGF- β, and CTLA4
- Inflammatory cytokines involved IL-6, IL-17A, TNF-α, and TGF-β
- quality of life
To assess the quality of life, the team used two statistical tools including the Disease Activity Score-28 for Rheumatoid Arthritis with Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (DAS28-ESR) which is used to determine the severity levels of RA by using clinical and laboratory measurements. The second tool that was being used by the team was the World Health Organization Quality of Life Instruments (WHOQOL-BREF) which is used to measure the lifestyle of different people including healthy as well as patients.
Findings from Yoga vs Non-Yoga Group
After the compilation of the measurements, the team found out that a significant improvement in the mind-body communicative markers. The team also found a reduction in the scores of DAS28-ESR that showed a better quality of life that resulted in an improvement in the physical health of the RA patients as well as the social life in comparison to the non-yoga group. It can also improve psychological disturbances because patients with RA often develop anxiety and depression.
There was a reduction have been seen in three of the four cytokines including IL-6, TNF-α, and CTLA4 whereas the level of only one cytokine that was found to be increased including TGF-β which showed that yoga can be used to reduce the activation of inflammatory cytokines that can further reduce the chances of upgrading the disease. Yoga can also decrease those chances that promote mind-body communicative markers that can be a reason to disturb a healthy lifestyle.
However, the findings from the current study can be a great help for the medical health professional that is currently dealing with the patients of RA. The symptoms of RA can be controlled by using yoga-based lifestyle intervention as it strengthens the muscles, maintains a healthy metabolism. It can also be used in pain relief and weight loss.