Does yoga help against osteoarthritis?

Yoga is an ancient practice that comes from India. It is considered a lifestyle rather than a sport or physical activity. There are many and diverse proven benefits of yoga: from maintaining correct posture to helping us cope with daily stress and various illnesses.

Next, we will know how yoga helps against osteoarthritis. In this sense, we will see what are the symptoms of this disease that yoga could help to alleviate, as well as some simple routines that we can do at home.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can cause pain in the area, as well as inflammation and stiffness, among other symptoms.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease suffered more often by those over 60, but it can occur in people of any age, mainly adults.

This sickness affects the locomotor system and particularly compromises the health of the joints. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are:

  • Pain when performing movements.
  • Sensitivity in the area.
  • Swelling and stiffness.
  • Loss of flexibility.
  • Synovitis
  • Deformity.
  • Inflammation.
  • Osteophytes.

There are various risk factors associated with osteoarthritis, such as age, gender (women are more prone), obesity, injuries, stress or overexertion (in sports and work activities), as well as genetic factors and some metabolic diseases, for example, hemochromatosis .

Osteoarthritis is a disease that develops slowly and progressively, and affects quality of life of those who suffer from it. To this day, there is no cure.

Treatment targets symptoms, mainly, and can be divided into: surgical intervention (joint replacement surgery), medications (analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections), physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Also, there are some habits that contribute to the treatment of osteoarthritis and that can help with the management of its symptoms, as well as eventually prevent its progression..

To know more, you can read: How can we improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Can Yoga Help Improve Osteoarthritis Symptoms?

The practice of yoga is among the activities that could help improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. In this regard, the benefits of yoga are related to various factors, such as:

  • Strength and grip.
  • Flexibility.
  • Balance.
  • Stress management.
  • Sense of well-being.
  • Quality of life.

Thus, yoga is recommended as a complementary therapy to conventional treatments for osteoarthritis. But does this have a scientific basis? Let's see what the research says about it.

Research on yoga in the treatment of osteoarthritis

Controversy exists regarding the purported benefits of yoga for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

In a 2019 review of the efficacy of yoga for treating osteoarthritis, studies on the subject were analyzed. These included 640 patients aged 50 to 80 years, predominantly women, with lower extremity osteoarthritis.

The results revealed little evidence on the positive effects of yoga for pain management in osteoarthritis compared to other exercises. Nor was there strong evidence of its effects on quality of life. However, researchers consider the use of yoga recommended for knee osteoarthritis.

On this subject, in another review a meta-analysis of the integrative effect of yoga practice in patients with knee osteoarthritis was carried out. The review focused on aspects such as pain reduction, functional recovery and general well-being of patients suffering from this ailment in the referred joint.

In total, 13 clinical trials were reviewed, involving 1,557 patients with knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The results indicate that group yoga training It is useful to reduce arthritic symptoms, promote physical function, and enhance general well-being.

Regarding clinical trials specifically, in a study conducted with 66 patients between the ages of 30 and 75, also diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, the effect of Integrated Approach Yoga Therapy (IAYT) was investigated.

The results obtained in the experimental group, which received the IAYT intervention, show that there were significant improvements in LHGS (left hand hand grip strength test) and knee extension, compared to the control group.

Finally, in a study on the effects of Hatha Yoga on knee osteoarthritis it was found that, after eight weeks doing the exercises of this modality, the results showed that pain and other symptoms decreased, in addition to the performance of daily activities and quality of life.

Keep reading on the subject in: Benefits of yoga for the body, mind and spirit.

Yoga for Osteoarthritis Patients

There are various modalities of yoga. However, the Arthritis Foundation has some recommendations, since some types of yoga are considered more appropriate for arthritis patients. These include: iyengar, anusara, kripalu, and viniyoga.

Also, in a particular way, there are certain routines, exercises and yoga positions that we can do to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Among them are the following:

Mountain pose

The mountain pose is a very simple exercise. You start with the big toes together and the heels slightly apart. While breathe deeply, opening the chest, the hands are placed, palm to palm, at the level of the heart. Then, these are raised above the head and the head is pointed towards the sky.


The warrior is a yoga exercise in which the abdominal muscles, legs and buttocks are worked. It is carried out as follows: standing, firm, the feet are separated so that there is approximately one meter twenty (1.20) between the heel of the one in front and the big toe of the one behind.

Then the leg is turned (to the right side if it is the right, and vice versa) and the knee is bent, forming a 90 ° angle. The hands are then raised upward, palms together, as much as possible. Take a deep breath and switch legs.

Shoemaker pose

This exercise is done sitting on the floor with the legs stretched out in front. Later, knees are bent, bringing the soles of the feet together and trying to bring the heels closer together towards the pelvis.

The knees are dropped to the sides, without forcing them down; that is, without trying to open more. This position is held for one minute; then the legs are stretched and the feet return to the original position.

Cane pose

Start in a position similar to the previous one: sitting on the floor, with the legs together and straight, the knees without bending. If you require it and it is more comfortable for you, you can place a mat to sit on.

The back must remain firm and straight. Hands out to the sides, palms facing forward. In the same way, the feet must be straight, with the sole also facing the front. It remains in this position for one minute.

So yoga against osteoarthritis: yes or no?

Before starting yoga practice, medical consultation is recommended.

If you suffer from osteoarthritis, yoga is a complementary therapy that can be considered as an alternative. But yoga cannot replace the treatment recommended by the doctor.

It is most appropriate to seek a professional instructor who has experience working with people with similar symptoms. Likewise, we must ask the doctor what exercises can be performed.

On the other hand, let us remember that yoga classes include three parts or moments that we must take into account to obtain the greatest benefit:

  • Awareness and breathing techniques.
  • Movements of strength, flexibility and balance.
  • Relaxation and meditation.

Likewise, as in any other exercise, yoga practice should start slowly and stay smooth until you feel your body warm. This is why it is important to make sure you warm up first.

By last, it is essential to listen to the body and pay attention to the signals. If you feel pain or discomfort, it means that you should stop. The idea is to reduce pain and improve quality of life, not the other way around.