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'Strike a pose' to ease your arthritic knee pain

Yoga can decrease pain, ease stiffness, improve knee function

If your achy knees are beginning to get the best of you, you may want to "strike a pose." Yoga may not only help decrease the pain and stiffness caused by knee osteoarthritis, but it may improve function, too.  Judi Bar, a registered yoga therapist at Cleveland Clinic, says yoga can stretch and strengthen the area around the knee.

"If we're talking about osteoarthritis of the knee, let's say, there are all the different poses that will stretch and strengthen the knees, the muscles that go down into the knees, and connect the hip, the knee, and the ankle," she explained.

A recent study out of the University of Minnesota looked at the effects yoga had on the knees of 36 women. They were between the ages of 65 and 90 and all had been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. They took part in a 60-minute yoga class once a week for 8 weeks, while some also did shorter sessions at home.

Results show that at the end of 8 weeks a majority of the women reported less pain, less stiffness, better function, and an improved quality of life. Researchers are encouraged by the results, but say more studies are needed. Bar says we're learning more and more that the benefits of practicing yoga may go beyond stress relief.

"So, in that envelope of helping us relieve our stress, which will affect the muscles, the tissues, the nerves, and with that motion, we can find improvement, even if it's slight, no matter how old we are, and no matter what state we are in with using yoga," she explained.

Bar says that many of the poses used to combat knee osteoarthritis are simple enough to do at home, or even the office.