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Using Yoga, Not Surgery, For Orthopedic Issues

August 19, 2011

Even simple yoga moves, done for a few minutes each day, can provide big orthopedic benefits.

We never tire of news covering the use of yoga in mainstream medicine, so of course we loved stumbling across this recent New York Times article about yoga being used as a low-cost prevention of and treatment for orthopedic problems.

The article profiles Dr. Loren Fishman, a specialist in physical and rehabilitative medicine, who’s considered by many of his patients to be a sort of miracle worker for using specific yoga postures to treat conditions like osteoporosis and scoliosis without surgery, drugs, or expensive physical therapy.

Dr. Fishman was recently awarded a prize at an international yoga conference for a paper he presented on a surprisingly simple yoga remedy for rotator cuff syndrome, which he has used to treat more than 700 patients, with a 90 percent success rate.

He’s also used yoga to help reverse bone loss. In a pilot study that began with 187 people with osteoporosis and 30 with its precursor, osteopenia, Dr. Fishman found that the patients who did 10 minutes of yoga daily for two years increased bone density in their hips and spines—while the patients who served as controls continued to lose bone.


Instead of an operation that can cost as much as $12,000, followed by four months of physical therapy, with no guarantee of success, Dr. Fishman’s [rotator cuff] treatment is an adaptation of a yoga headstand called the triangular forearm support. His version can be done against a wall or using a chair as well as on one’s head. The maneuver, in effect, trains a muscle below the shoulder blade, the subscapularis, to take over the job of the injured muscle, the supraspinatus, that normally raises the arm from below chest height to above the shoulder.

The doctor discovered the benefit of this technique quite accidentally. He had suffered a bad tear in his left shoulder when he swerved to avoid a taxi that had pulled in front of his car. Frustrated by an inability to practice yoga during the month he waited to see a surgeon, one day he attempted a yoga headstand. After righting himself, he discovered he could raise his left arm over his head without pain, even though an M.R.I. showed that the supraspinatus muscle was still torn.

Find the rest of this article here.

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