In The News: April 2017
Chair Yoga Effective for Reducing Pain of Osteoarthritis
Painful arthritic joints can make it difficult to exercise, yet physical activity is a cornerstone of treatment for arthritis. Physical therapists often recommend gentle exercises, including yoga. If yoga poses are too difficult, modified versions like chair yoga are options. In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (December 2016), 131 older adults with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to either a chair yoga program or a health education program. Both consisted of twice-weekly 45-minute sessions for eight weeks. Compared to the health education group, participants in the chair yoga program had greater reduction in pain that interfered with daily activities, benefits that persisted for three months. They also had less pain overall and improved gait speed with less fatigue during, but not after, the program.
People with Rheumatoid Arthritis Living Longer
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have historically had somewhat shorter lifespans than the general population, but that may be changing. A study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (December 2016) compared death rates for people with and without RA and divided those with RA into two groups—those diagnosed in 1996 to 2000 and those diagnosed in 2001 to 2006. The researchers found that people diagnosed with RA during the earlier five-year period had a higher rate of dying from heart disease, cancer or other causes, with the exception of infection, than the general population. But there was no difference in mortality between the general population and those diagnosed with RA in the latter five-year period. The authors theorize that improved RA medications and earlier, more aggressive treatment may be, at least partly, responsible for lengthening life expectancy.
Even Moderate Activity Helps Arthritis Sufferers Remain Functional
Everyone needs exercise to stay healthy, and federal guidelines specifically recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week. For people with arthritis, even this modest activity may seem daunting. A study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research (December 2016) suggests that just 45 minutes of moderate activity a week may be enough, at least to start. Using movement-monitoring devices, the researchers assessed physical activity of over 1,600 adults age 49 and older with osteoarthritis in the lower limbs (hips, knees or feet). Those who engaged in 45 minutes of moderate activity a week were 80 percent more likely to improve or maintain their physical function over two years than those exercising less. The authors concluded that this level of activity provides an intermediate goal that will help maintain function, while working towards 150 minutes a week.
Statins May Extend Life for People with Inflammatory Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) are types of arthritis caused by inflammation. PsA affects the skin and joints, and AS is arthritis of the spine. Both are linked to increased risk for heart disease. A study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (November 2016) evaluated the effect of statin drugs, which lower cholesterol levels, on people with these two types of arthritis. Using a large database of patients in the United Kingdom, researchers compared 2,904 people with AS or PsA who started taking statin drugs between 2000 and 2014 with 2,904 people who did not take statins. Statin users were 33 percent less likely to die over five years of follow-up. This may be because statins both lower cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory effects, both of which contribute to heart disease.