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Chair Yoga Found to Be an Effective Treatment Strategy For Osteoarthritis

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  • Though regular exercise is recommended for people with osteoarthritis (OA), lack of muscle strength and pain prevents older people with OA from engaging in it.
  • Chair yoga which is practiced by either sitting on a chair or standing while holding the chair for support is found to be an effective strategy for such individuals.
  • It helps to reduce pain and improve quality of life while simultaneously preventing adverse effects of pharmacological treatment.

Chair Yoga Found to Be an Effective Treatment Strategy For Osteoarthritis

Chair yoga is proving to be an effective strategy for the millions of older adults who suffer from osteoarthritis in their lower extremities (hip, knee, ankle or foot).

It helps to reduce pain and improve quality of life while avoiding pharmacological treatment and its adverse events.


"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, D.N.P., A.R.N.P., co-author and emeritus professor in FAU's College of Nursing.

Though regular exercise has proven to help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, the ability to participate in exercise declines with age. As a result many discontinue before they can even receive benefits.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends yoga to reduce joint pain, improve flexibility and balance, and reduce stress and tension, but 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 well-suited for older adults who cannot engage in exercises of practice regular yoga. It is practiced sitting in a chair or standing while holding the chair for support.

This is the first randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of chair yoga on pain and physical function in older adults with osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in older adults. Osteoarthritis is characterized by pain, joint stiffness and functional limitation of activities of daily living.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the leading cause of long-term disability among older adults.

It affected more than 33% of people over the age of 65 and over 13.9% of adults aged 25 years and older in the U.S in 2005.

OA accounts for 47.4% of all arthritis-related hospitalizations. There were 3,161,100 hospitalizations for OA as principal diagnosis in 2011.

In 2009, the estimated costs due to hospital expenditures of total knee and hip joint replacements was respectively, $28.5 billion and $13.7 billion.

The World Health Organization estimates that osteoarthritis affects about 10% of men and 18% of women worldwide.


For the study, researchers randomly assigned 131 older adults with osteoarthritis.

Among those assigned, 66 participants engaged in a "Sit 'N' Fit Chair Yoga©" program developed by Kristine Lee and 65 participants underwent a health education program (HEP).

Participants attended 45-minute sessions twice a week for 8 weeks.

Before, during and after the sessions, researchers measured:
  • pain
  • how pain interferes with daily activities
  • balance, gait speed
  • fatigue and functional ability
"With osteoarthritis-associated pain, there is interference in everyday living, limiting functional and social activities as well as diminishing life enjoyment," said Juyoung Park, Ph.D., 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.


Participants in the chair yoga group in comparison to those in the health education program showed :
  • a greater reduction in pain
  • reduction in pain interference during their sessions
  • reuction in fatigue
  • Improvement in gait speed
The reduction in pain interference was observed during the session and lasted for about three months after the 8-week chair yoga program was completed. The reductions in fatigue and improvement in gait speed was seen during the study session, but not after session.

"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." Juyoung Park said.


"The potential impact of this study on public health is high, as this program provides an approach for keeping community-dwelling elders active even when they cannot participate in traditional exercise that challenges their balance," said Liehr.

The effect of chair yoga should be further explored as a nonpharmacologic intervention for older people with osteoarthritis in the lower extremities.

"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." McCaffrey said.

The new study was conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


  1. Osteoarthritis - (https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm)
  2. Ruth McCaffrey et al. 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. Journal of the American Geriatrics SocietyDOI: 10.1111/jgs.14717

Source: Medindia

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