Improve Knee Osteoarthritis with Yoga

Improve Knee Osteoarthritis with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“yoga is proven to help people with arthritis improve many physical and psychological symptoms. . . .  regular yoga practice can help reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function and lower stress and tension to promote better sleep.” – Susan Bernstein


Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that is the most common form of arthritis. It produces pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with about 43% of arthritis sufferers limited in mobility and about a third having limitations that affect their ability to perform their work. Knee osteoarthritis effects 5% of adults over 25 years of age and 12% of those over 65. It is painful and disabling. Its causes are varied including, hereditary, injury including sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries, infection, or from being overweight.


There are no cures for knee osteoarthritis. Treatments are primarily symptomatic, including weight loss, exercise, braces, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, arthroscopic knee surgery, or even knee replacement. Gentle movements of the joints with exercise and physical therapy appear to be helpful in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. This suggests that alternative and complementary practices that involve gentle knee movements may be useful for treatment.


Mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and Qigong  and yoga have been shown to reduce the physical symptoms of knee osteoarthritisYoga, has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions, including arthritis. So, it would seem reasonable to look further into the effectiveness of yoga practice in treating knee osteoarthritis.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yoga Based Lifestyle Intervention on Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Deepeshwar and colleagues recruited adults with knee osteoarthritis and randomly assigned then to receive twice daily sessions for one week of Integrated Approach to Yoga Therapy (IAYT) or to a no-yoga control condition. IAYT consists of yoga postures, yoga breathing, relaxation, meditation and lectures on yogic lifestyle, devotional sessions, and stress management. They were measured before and after training for standing, walking, and sitting, knee flexibility and range of motion, handgrip strength, and fear of falling.


They found that the group who received the Integrated Approach to Yoga Therapy (IAYT) treatment significantly improved in comparison to baseline and the control group in their speed of standing, walking, and sitting, their knee flexibility and range of motion, and their handgrip strength. Hence, they found that IAYT produced significant improvement in the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.


It would have been better if they included an active control group in the study (e.g. a different exercise) to control for participant expectancy effects and experimenter biases. Nevertheless, the results replicate the previous findings that yoga practice is effective in treating knee osteoarthritis, strengthening the conclusions. IAYT is a complex of practices and future research should be targeted at identifying which components are effective and which are not. Regardless, gentle yoga practice appears to be a safe and effective alternative treatment for the improvement in movement in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.


So, improve knee osteoarthritis with yoga.


“The culprit is osteoarthritis, the “wear-and-tear” arthritis, of the knees. Good weight-bearing alignment, learned and practiced in yoga class, can help keep the knees happy and healthy. On the other hand, bad alignment in poses—heaven forbid—can actually contribute to the breakdown of the joint surfaces, and the subsequent painful inflammation, caused by osteoarthritis.” – Julie Gudmustad


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Deepeshwar, S., Tanwar, M., Kavuri, V., & Budhi, R. B. (2018). Effect of Yoga Based Lifestyle Intervention on Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 180.



Objective: To investigate the effect of integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT) intervention in individual with knee Osteoarthritis.

Design: Randomized controlled clincial trail.

Participants: Sixty-six individual prediagnosed with knee osteoarthritis aged between 30 and 75 years were randomized into two groups, i.e., Yoga (n = 31) and Control (n = 35). Yoga group received IAYT intervention for 1 week at yoga center of S-VYASA whereas Control group maintained their normal lifestyle.

Outcome measures: The Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), Handgrip Strength test (left hand LHGS and right hand RHGS), Timed Up and Go Test (TUG), Sit-to-Stand (STS), and right & left extension and flexion were measured on day 1 and day 7.

Results: There were a significant reduction in TUG (p < 0.001), Right (p < 0.001), and Left Flexion (p < 0.001) whereas significant improvements in LHGS (p < 0.01), and right extension (p < 0.05) & left extension (p < 0.001) from baseline in Yoga group.

Conclusion: IAYT practice showed an improvement in TUG, STS, HGS, and Goniometer test, which suggest improved muscular strength, flexibility, and functional mobility.


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