Myths and misconceptions about arthritis abound, but the biggest is probably the idea that arthritis is just age-related aches and pains. Actually, the term arthritis includes about 100 diseases and conditions, some of which can strike before the age of 16.
Isolation and pain
Many arthritis sufferers also face isolation. Not only is pain cited as a reason for limiting social activities among people with arthritis, but it is also the most commonly mentioned barrier to sufficient exercise. Pain-related fear of movement is certainly understandable, but the right exercises can actually be very therapeutic for people living with arthritis; they can help reduce pain and elevate mood.
“Parents of children with arthritis are often told that prolonged rest is good for arthritis and arthritic joints,” notes Dr. Brian Feldman, senior scientist and head of the Division of Rheumatology at the Hospital for Sick Children. “We believe that physical activity and exercise are much better for arthritis than too much rest. Studies are ongoing, but basically exercise seems to improve physical function. Moderate exercise is safe for children with arthritis, but intensity and duration should be limited by symptoms.”
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Iyengar yoga, particularly, has been found to reduce disability and pain in people with chronic low back pain. It is still undecided whether or not hot yoga (which is performed in a specially heated room) should be practised by people with rheumatoid (or inflammatory) arthritis, but many patients do swear by it.
When deciding to start a yoga practice, don’t be afraid to talk to the teacher or studio owner first. They may not advertise a “yoga for arthritis” class, but they can help you choose the right class, poses, and adaptations to suit your symptoms and needs. Beginner classes in any type of yoga will ease you into building strength and flexibility, so you don’t have to be naturally flexible to start.