While many activities can be difficult for elderly people with joint pain, scientists have discovered that doing yoga in a chair could be beneficial. Researchers in Florida carried out an eight-week programme to explore the idea for treatment in osteoarthritis sufferers.
The test subjects were people with problems in their lower extremities, including the hip, knee, ankle and foot. Such issues often cause balance and strength difficulties, as well as pain, so moving around can become difficult.
Doing yoga while sat in a chair or using it for support was found to reduce pain and fatigue, while the speed of walking was also improved. In some of the study’s cases, the participant found their pain was reduced for three months after the end of the eight-week course.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, took a sample of 131 people. Some followed a chair yoga programme, while the others undertook health education. The resulting pain, pain interference, gait speed, fatigue and functional ability were measured and compared to levels beforehand.
Juyoung Park, PhD, co-author of the study, said: "With osteoarthritis-associated pain, there is interference in everyday living, limiting functional and social activities as well as diminishing life enjoyment… 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."
Degenerative joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis, mean that the surfaces inside the joints are damaged and cannot move smoothly. The pain often feels like a grinding sensation and there is no cure. While yoga has often been found to help with pain, it can be hard to practice the traditional form if joint pain has already set in.
The university states: "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."
Adapting traditional yoga poses in this way makes them more accessible to everyone and allows the practice to be used more widely. It’s important that yoga is undertaken with the guidance of a qualified teacher to ensure no damage is done to the body.