Chair yoga helps older adults manage osteoarthritis pain

Chair yoga may produce sustained improvements in pain interference among older adults with lower extremity osteoarthritis, according to a study published December 23 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Doctor’s Lounge

Yoga for Arthritis. Ann Swanson, Denver CO.

Florida Atlantic University, via Science Daily January 11, 2017

The first randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of chair yoga on pain and physical function in older adults with osteoarthritis is proving to be an effective way to reduce pain and improve quality of life while avoiding pharmacologic treatment or adverse events for the millions who suffer from the disease in their lower extremities (hip, knee, ankle or foot).

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 131 older adults with osteoarthritis to either the Sit ‘N’ Fit Chair Yoga© program developed by Kristine Lee or a health education program. Participants attended 45-minute sessions twice a week for 8 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.

Results from the study found that participants 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, and that reduction in pain interference lasted for about three months after the 8-week chair yoga program was completed. The 8-week chair yoga program also was associated with reductions in fatigue and improvement in gait speed during the study session, but not post session.

Yoga for Arthritis. Ann Swanson, Denver CO.

“With osteoarthritis-associated pain, there is interference in everyday living, limiting functional and social activities as well as diminishing life enjoyment,” said Juyoung Park PhD., co-author and co-principal investigator of the study, Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar and an associate professor in FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry. “The effect of pain on everyday living is most directly captured by pain interference, and our findings demonstrate that chair yoga reduced pain interference in everyday activities.”

Regular exercise has proven to help relieve osteoarthritis pain, however, the ability to participate in exercise declines with age, and many dropout before they can even receive benefits. Although the Arthritis Foundation recommends yoga 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. Chair yoga is practiced sitting in a chair or standing while holding the chair for support, and is well suited to older adults who cannot participate in standing yoga or exercise.

“Currently, the only treatment for osteoarthritis, which has no cure, includes lifestyle changes and pharmacologic treatments that are not without adverse events,” said Ruth McCaffrey DNP ARNP, co-author and 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.”

The overall goal of this interdisciplinary program is to decrease pain, and improve physical and psychosocial functions of elderly individuals with osteoarthritis who are unable to participate in other exercise and yoga programs.

Park and McCaffrey conducted the study with Patricia Liehr PhD RN, co-principal investigator, co-author and a professor in FAU’s College of Nursing; David Newman PhD, co-author and an assistant professor in FAU’s College of Nursing; and Joseph G. Ouslander MD, co-author, senior associate dean of geriatric programs and chair and professor of the Department of Integrated Medical Science in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

Source Florida Atlantic University via Science Daily


A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis, Park J, McCaffrey R, Newman D3, Liehr P, Ouslander JG. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Dec 23. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14717. [Epub ahead of print]

The Effect of Chair Yoga on Biopsychosocial Changes in English- and Spanish-Speaking Community-Dwelling Older Adults with Lower-Extremity Osteoarthritis, Park J, Newman D, McCaffrey R, Garrido J, Riccio ML, Liehr P. J Gerontol Soc Work. 2016 Oct – Nov;59(7-8):604-626. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2016.1239234.

The effect of Sit ‘n’ Fit Chair Yoga among community-dwelling older adults with osteoarthritis, Park J, McCaffrey R, Newman D, Cheung C, Hagen D. Holist Nurs Pract. 2014 Jul-Aug;28(4):247-57. doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000034.

Yoga for Osteoarthritis: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Lauche R, Hunter DJ, Adams J, Cramer H. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2019 Jul 23;21(9):47. doi: 10.1007/s11926-019-0846-5. Review.

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