Reducing inflammation with yoga after ACL surgery


By far the most popular post on this site is my post on Asana After ACL Surgery. It makes me so happy that people are finding their way back to health by incorporating yoga into their recovery prescription.

If you haven’t thought about spending time on the mat to aid healing, there now laboratory evidence that yoga reduces inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation. (Is that swollen knee talking to you yet?)

Researchers looked at 200 breast cancer survivors who had not practiced yoga before. Half the group continued to ignore yoga, while the other half received twice-weekly, 90-minute classes for 12 weeks, with take-home DVDs and encouragement to practice at home.

According to the study, which was led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, and published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group that had practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality three months after treatment had ended.

Laboratory Proof

The study didn’t rely only on self-reporting, however. Kiecolt-Glaser’s husband and research partner, Ronald Glaser of the university’s department of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, went for stronger, laboratory proof. He examined three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation.

Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent. That part of the study offered some rare biological evidence of the benefits of yoga in a large trial that went beyond people’s own reports of how they feel.

Yoga for ACL Surgery Patients

Cancer is an obvious cause stress, but anyone who has had a torn ACL and surgery to repair it knows that this is also an incredibly stressful experience. It is no small stretch to believe that yoga could help reduce this stress and reduce the inflammatory proteins in the body as well. This is especially true given that smaller studies have shown, by measuring biological markers, that expert yoga practitioners had lower inflammatory responses to stress than novice yoga practitioners did; that yoga reduces inflammation in heart failure patients; and that yoga can improve crucial levels of glucose and insulin in patients with diabetes.

See you on the mat!

Photo by Lyn Tally, used with permission


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8 responses to “Reducing inflammation with yoga after ACL surgery”

  1. Vera says :

    That’s so good to know. I have been finally cleared by my physio to practice yoga and I can not wait to start. As a climber, I see yoga as my friend – it makes me more flexible and calms me down.
    I found all of those studies you mentioned in your post very interesting, thanks for sharing it.

    • Carry Porter says :

      I remember my first trip back to the studio at the 4-week mark. My instructor said, “What are you doing here already?” I laughed and told him that everyone comes to yoga with “issues.” At least mine are obvious. He laughed and welcomed me back to class.

      Take a look at the first post I wrote, linked above. It’s easy to protect your knees if pay close attention to your alignment and only ask your body to what it can do.

      Wishing you well on your journey!

      • Vera says :

        Thanks for all this information (I have read your first post as well). I am going to my first post op yoga class tomorrow. Can not wait! 🙂

        All the best with your journey too!

  2. adventuresunplugged says :

    I am heading to a yoga class today to start working on rebalancing my muscles and joints, improving my perception of what is working, where I have tension, where to find my balance. I also find it helps with my climbing, and hopefully it will bring down some inflammation too.

    Smooth road to recovery!

    • Carry Porter says :

      Best wishes to you in your first class! I’m curious to hear how it goes.

      • adventuresunplugged says :

        It wasn’t my first ever to be honest, I go occasionally but have a hard time getting a rhythm. Also, it is through my uni’s gym, which to be fair is awesome, but sometimes they have really odd yoga variations with jumping, or holding a pose for five minutes, or power yoga, or humming while breathing. I haven’t found that all of them really fit.

        Today was what I would consider ‘standard’ yoga, and I really aimed for keeping balance in my hips, keeping my knees out, and weight across all five of my toes. I currently feel great, and am going to try to go more regularly when this teacher is listed

  3. adventuresunplugged says :

    oh! and i also noticed my ENTIRE right side is super tense, top of the head down to my toes. A lot to work on 🙂

    • Carry Porter says :

      My PT was always amazed at how specific I could be about how my knee/body was feeling. I credit yoga for that awareness. It helped my PT focus not just on the knee but on everything else that was supporting the knee too.

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