Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, disabling disease that can greatly compromise health-related quality of life (HRQoL). The aim of this study was to assess the impact of a 6-week twice/week Iyengar yoga program on HRQoL of young adults with RA compared with a usual-care waitlist control group.
Methods: The program was designed to improve the primary outcome of HRQoL including pain and disability and psychological functioning in patients. Assessments were collected pretreatment, posttreatment, and at 2 months after treatment. Weekly ratings of anxiety, depression, pain, and sleep were also recorded. A total of 26 participants completed the intervention (yoga=11; usual-care waitlist=15). All participants were female (mean age=28 y).
Results: Overall attrition was low at 15%. On average, women in the yoga group attended 96% of the yoga classes. No adverse events were reported. Relative to the usual-care waitlist, women assigned to the yoga program showed significantly greater improvement on standardized measures of HRQoL, pain disability, general health, mood, fatigue, acceptance of chronic pain, and self-efficacy regarding pain at posttreatment. Almost half of the yoga group reported clinically meaningful symptom improvement. Analysis of the uncontrolled effects and maintenance of treatment effects showed improvements in HRQoL general health, pain disability, and weekly ratings of pain, anxiety, and depression were maintained at follow-up.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that a brief Iyengar yoga intervention is a feasible and safe adjunctive treatment for young people with RA, leading to HRQoL, pain disability, fatigue, and mood benefits. Moreover, improvements in quality of life, pain disability, and mood persisted at the 2-month follow-up.