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


Is bracing after ACL surgery necessary?


It came up again in conversation earlier this week: am I wearing a brace on my knee now that I’m starting to get back to my normal sports? It’s easy to understand why you might think you need one judging by the number of manufacturers and retailers touting their benefits. The trouble is, I can’t find any controlled studies suggesting that there is any benefit to wearing a brace after ACL surgery. Braces have not shown to reduce post-op reinjury or complications. And they do not increase function or stability.

The first study I found from 1997, followed patients for 2 years. In that time two people suffered re-injury – one in the control group and one in the brace-wearing group. No other substantial differences were found.

About the time that this study was finishing, another study came out confirming that the use of prophylactic braces in sport did not prove to be effective. This study is especially important because it was a meta-study, aggregating data from multiple clinical and experimental studies. The authors concluded that no evidence of a significant bracing effect could be demonstrated.

Okay, you’re saying, those studies were a long time ago. ACL surgery and rehab has changed since then!

Right. In 2007, another systematic review of evidence confirmed that using a brace did not affect pain, range of motion, graft stability, or protection from subsequent injury. A year later, a fourth study compared functional knee braces to neoprene sleeves for protection of ACL injured knees. This study actually began with the assumption that knee braces were effective and hypothesized that functional braces would be more effective than neoprene sleeves. Know what the found? Current evidence does not support the recommendation of using an ACL knee brace after ACL reconstruction.

I’m not telling anyone to not follow doctors orders with respect to wearing a brace (especially immediately post-op). And I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t wear a brace if they want to. I just wanted to show that long-term, there isn’t any evidence supporting their use. If your doctor or PT recommends one, show them these studies and ask them to show you the counter-evidence that demonstrates they are effective. You should only have to to pay for medical treatments and devices that actually work!

I’ll finish by saying that I’m always open to changing my mind if evidence swings the other way, so please leave me a comment if you’ve found something that I didn’t!

Anti-inflammatory chai tea

In case you don’t follow my other blog – What Carry Eats – you might want to hop over there and check out my recipe for Anti-Inflammatory Chai Tea. Who couldn’t use a little comfort in a cup when they’re laid up on the couch?

What Carry Eats

Inflammation . The word probably makes you think of a knee swollen from running, a sore throat or a rash. Or maybe you’ve tuned into the recent conversations about systemic inflammation that is the result of an immune response gone wild.

The first type of inflammation is good and will go away with rest and maybe an over-the-counter NSAID. The second form usually begins when our bodies’ defense system runs out of control, like a rebel army bent on destroying its own country. What few people understand is that systemic inflammation run amok is at the root of all chronic illness we experience — conditions like heart disease, obesity, demntia, depression, cancer, and even autism.

Thankfully, the list of things that cause inflammation is relatively short: poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and hidden allergens or toxins.

I assume if you’re reading this blog, you are already making strides towards transforming your diet…

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