The People's Perspective on Medicine

835 Ancient Moves for Joint Relief (Archive)

Joints like shoulders and hips are susceptible to injury as well as arthritis. Conventional medicine usually offers physical therapy or surgery, or most likely both. One doctor who specializes in physical medicine has developed some unorthodox treatments that are often surprisingly successful.
Dr. Loren Fishman studied yoga in India for three years before medical school and continues to practice it himself. He has found that modified yoga moves can be used to treat problems like a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder or piriformis syndrome in the hip. He has also found ways to use yoga to treat osteoporosis, sciatica and scoliosis.
Guests: Loren Fishman, MD, is medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City. He is also associate editor of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, on the staff at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and past president of the New York Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. His books include Yoga for Osteoporosis (2010), Yoga for Arthritis (2008) and Cure Back Pain with Yoga (2006). His website is
The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for six weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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He wrote that he mixed it with juice.

I just listened to the show on the web thanks to a friend’s recommendation. I have been suffering from a “pull” and spasms between the shoulder blades for a year now possibly from overuse of the computer. MRI and X-rays are normal. Physical therapy provided only temporary relief. I tried yoga once, but went into spasms again, and I am afraid of going back. I have now decided to do nothing upon advice of a practitioner of the Alexander Technique who said my problem is structural, and my muscles are overstretched.
Who to believe? Would Iyanga yoga be of help?

What a fabulous program. As a yoga teacher of people over 50, I see the evidence of how yoga can enhance mobility and stability.
Thank you for all you do to enlighten, and encourage us to take some responsibility for our well being. Also, since I am 67, I know the benefit of practicing meditation. It is becoming much more important to my students too as they see results.
Judy Q. Jeffries

I listen to your program this past weekend and found it very interestng.
My only disappointment is that when I looked up, I could not find any thing on yoga. Maybe I did not look in the right places.
Still interested,
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Try You will have much better luck!

My yoga teacher gave me some exercises involving a rope and a door to do at home for a small rotator cuff tear after it had healed without surgery. With these simple exercises done daily, I was able to extend my arm above my shoulder again after about a month. Now it’s as if It had never been torn. The tear occurred from repeatedly dropping a heavy purse into the car back seat and reaching back again awkwardly, to pick it up. Yoga keeps me moving without pain at 72. Without it I know I would have had problems by now.

I’m finally inspired to develop a yoga practice because of this program. What Dr. Fishman said about the ways knees work with hips and feet made it clear to me that doing more yoga and doing the right poses will make a big difference. I couldn’t find the link on his website for the book he mentioned about Yoga for Arthritis. Can you email it to me? THANK YOU!

Re: frozen right shoulder.
I’m a 50 year old mother of 3 and I suffered from this a year and a half ago and was told it can take up to 2 years to resolve. (say wha!) Therapeutic massage aggravated it; acupuncture helped alleviate pain and restore some range of motion (ROM). It wasn’t until I began seeing an unorthodox chiropractor that improvement really began to show. After his evaluation he said my left hip was dropped, causing a misalignment and contributing to the frozen shoulder. He worked with my energy rather than physically adjusting my spine. He gave me some yoga stretches, especially the ones that involve working both sides of the body equally.
Lying on your back with knees bent and doing slow hip raises and lowering (one spine at a time), which strengthens the back muscles equally/symmetrically. Also, standing against a closed door and walking your fingers up as high as you can tolerate (ouch, ouch, ouch)and relaxing letting your hands drag back down the door. Another one, bending forward and letting your affected arm hang and swing arm in a circular motion, clockwise and counter-clockwise.
As Dr. Fishman mentioned, this is a painful recovery, and I found that to be unfortunately true when first beginning the exercises. I also set up a pulley with a rope over the door so I could raise my arm to the side with my left arm. (ouch, ouch) Again, painful, and progress was slow at first, but within 8 weeks of starting the exercises, I began realizing that doing the symmetrical stretching and exercises were really helping. For instance, starting to work in the garden, reaching out with both arms pulling a rake toward me actually seemed to help recovery rather than setting me back.
A yoga exercise that would mimic this task would be kneeling, (sitting on your calves with knees bent) and slowly reaching forward along the floor until you’re fully reaching above your head; you might not be able to get your forehead to the floor at first, but make it your goal. Persistent and frequent stretching is key and I only stretched as far as I could tolerate the pain. Within 3 months of visiting this chiropractor (only 4 visits), and performing the stretches, I had nearly full ROM, but still some pain/discomfort. But now, after 12 months of incorporating additional yoga stretches to daily routine, my shoulder has been up to the task of gardening and working (professional window cleaning) this year with no relapse. In fact, I haven’t felt any of the sore back/joint problems I’ve had in previous years from gardening or window cleaning. Actually, my overall energy and mood have improved as well.
Yoga rocks and so does my chiro!
Hope you find this helpful and encouraging.

Good show!

Hi, I have a couple ideas to be tried for the problems mentioned on the show this AM. For rotator cuff problems, I got on some steep stairs and used my arm and body weight leaning on the stairs to press the rotator cuff back into place. Do it for about 15 minutes twice a day for the first 2 weeks after the problem occurs. This may solve the problem without surgery. Second, for siatica, I eat 2-3 brocolli crowns for a couple of days and it does solve some muscle related siatica pain. I’m thinking that the increased slip from the magnesium in the brocolli is easing the siatica problem. pg1246 o&o

I am a physiatrist in practice in Florida and frequently suggest yoga to my predominantly geriatric patient population with great results. It is also very helpful for cancer survivors and caregivers and we have an onsite class in yoga as well as Tai Chi at the Center for Building Hope in Sarasota. Many of the participants report overall better sense of resilience, energy and diminished side effects from their various treatment.
I agree it is important to work with a qualified health care provider, listen to your body and do not attempt poses that are painful or put undue strain on injured areas. Proper breathing is also an important element that many find helpful too.

After a yoga practice off/on for 20 years, I had to give it up due to physical limitations in favor of other disciplines. Will be interested in other comments.

Great guest and great interview. Thank you.
Yoga is beautiful. I just want to add that one should allow the exercises to do the work, and not overwork the exercises; just as one shouldn’t regarding physical therapy exercises. One should warm up to them, not “work” them.

While I agree with many of your comments, the one about the cost of yoga lessons is not universally true. I have taught yoga now for over 30 years, and have never charged a fee. I accept voluntary donations, and there is never a ‘suggestion’ of what that may be. A simple smile is often more than enough, and I’ve gratefully accepted limes, bananas, cookies, and even the occasional chocolate.

Dr. Fishman sounded like a kindly gentleman, I heard the radio program and did not find him opinionated at all, just well trained and informed and he did a lot more studying and training than MOST!! Yes, it costs money, do you teach it FREE? There is Silver Sneakers sponsored by Medicare Advantage and it’s FREE!!

I want to thank you for this program. I have begun doing the yoga poses recommended for osteoarthritis of the knees. There has been a marked improvement already. I think that the explanation of why these poses are effective is the reason I continue doing them. It makes sense that stretching and posing would stretch align the ligaments, bones, muscles. The problem began with a sprained ankle and resulting weird alignment of my ligaments. Thanks so much.

I went right to the library and got “Yoga for Osteoporosis”–great book just what I was looking for/needed. Great show–right up there with Hollick. Thank you.

We took a Feldenkrais workshop some years back and enjoyed the discipline a great deal. It is very gentle simple stretching that can be used for years. Unfortunately there is no one here that conducts these workshops currently. If there is one of the these in your area try it. I recommend this highly. It is not the same as yoga having no poses and also can be done on a bed as well as a floor or workout table.

I was cured of plantar fasciitis by doing a basic transitional pose called the Downward Dog pose about a dozen times throughout a yoga class. I had suffered for five months with this injury in one of my feet. But after getting no relief from daily exercises recommended by physical therapists and even Pilates instructors, I decided on a whim one day to return to yoga.
By the end of class, despite constant pain during the Downward Dog poses, the pain had completely disappeared and has never returned in over four years. Two years ago I underwent Total Hip Replacement and returned to yoga, this time studying under a phenomenal yoga instructor who had also had hip replacement surgery. She modified the poses so that I wouldn’t injure my new hip. Needless to say I am a firm advocate of yoga!

Platelet Rich Plasma Injections were recommended for my shoulder pain (partial tendon in A C Joint and previously surgical repaired knee which is now bone on bone and arthritis.

Thank you Joe and Terry, I loved this show. I have already posted it throught my network, FB etc…and sent it top my yoga teachers. I will go see him. I wish we could “Starbuck’s” around the country. Anybody know the people at Yoga Works? It would be great if they could farm this out. I don’t want to red eye to NY and crawl into his office on my knees…they still hurt from my proposal.

While Yoga is certainly not free, it is generally a bargain at 8-15$ per session. But neither is golf, tennis, or a gym membership. Walking requires shoes unless we have access to a nice sandy beach. Considering the doctors visits it can eliminate, it is a bargain. But the quality of instructors varies greatly. If you live in larger town or city check with your parks and recs dept as they often offer yoga classes at a moderate fee. Also many businesses provide yoga for employees at a low or reduced cost.
I have never been in yoga for the perfect pose, I am just in it for the stretching primarily and the body conditioning as a secondary benefit.

I have frozen shoulder for 9 months. The shoulder and the upper arm are hurt and feel uncomfortable during the day. I am in pain when the arms at rest and special at night time in bed ! Any kinds of exercise or home remedy or yoga can help ? ? I had tried golden raisin soaked in Gin for 6 weeks but it was not help. Thanks !

Thank you very much for this informative program, Dr. Fishman. Your findings give me much hope that I can relieve the pain in my joints and improve my osteoporosis through Yoga. I have suffered with severe osteoporosis following my first compression fracture 22 years ago at the age of 31.
Gradually, all physical activity has been reduced to just walking for basic existence. I have tried to start a walking program several times only to have to stop because of joint pain. I look forward to reading your book and finding a proper yoga instructor/program in my area. Thank you again. I feel relieved just to know there is something out there I am able to do.

This show certainly was interesting and informative from a medical perspective but I was very turned off by the attitudes and prejudices which Dr. Fishman expressed regarding the kind of yoga he has chosen to practice and the air of intellectual superiority that he seems to feel the members of his chosen profession possess.
While his medical opinions are as he put it soundly based on science, his yoga biases as well as his blatant and incessant self-promotion of his books detracted from my ability to take much of yoga opinions seriously. While the Iyengar style of yoga to which Dr. Fishman referred certainly has broad appeal amongst westerners it is also one of the more lineal and prescriptive styles of yoga available. It however is not representative of the wide array of yoga that is practiced and it is unfortunate that both Dr. Fishman’s yoga perspective and his ability to try and make comparisons between yoga and western medicine is limited to those western styles of yoga whose emphasis is so narrowly defined by “the perfect pose”.
There are many medical doctors who practice many different styles of yoga and they would likely credit yoga with more of its true wisdoms and benefits beyond those that western medicine thinks they can prove. .
By the way, yoga is not “free” in the United States as Dr. Fishman repeated stated. The cost of taking yoga classes or working with a private teacher is usually considered a barrier to entry and something that yoga teachers always struggle to keep as low as possible but also enable them earn a living. The later is a fact-not a opinion.

Arthritis in the hands, what would help?

Enjoyed the show.
I wish he had given more detail on Janu Sirsasana pose for plantar fasciitis. I did a bit of searching and found the following URL’s related to it. As he said you may need to consult an instructor to learn to do it right. The first is for beginners
Searching on the term “Janu Sirsasana” also showed a link with many images of people performing variations of the pose.
I developed a case of fasciitis in my right foot by stomping on the deck of a riding lawn mower this summer to clear grass clogs and am still suffering, but slowly getting better. Better to stomp grapes than mower decks I suppose. I have been doing other stretches, but not much of Janu-sirsasana so I will incorporate it in my stretching.
Toward the end of the interview, Terry asks is there are cases where yoga can be inappropriate or dangerous. While Dr. Fishman gives a great answer, I have a short version. “Listen to your body, and don’t do what hurts or you know will hurt.”
Yoga classes I have been in still have people rotate their necks, but I have read (probably here) that this can be harmful. If you want to stretch your neck always go from vertical to the stretch and back to vertical before stretching in a different direction. Rotating from one position angle to the next cannot be good on a neck, especially an older neck.
In one class, we were sitting and the instructor had us lifting our foot up toward our head. She said now if you can place your foot behind your head. I broke up the class when I grunted the sentence, “Not as long as it is still attached to my body”. I don’t do handstands either because of known neck problems.

Thank you for this very interesting program with Dr. Fishman about yoga. Fifteen months ago I started a low carb/Paleo lifestyle; no grains, sugar or processed foods.
Within weeks, moderate arthritis in the knee, diagnosed by MRI, and life long eczema disappeared.
A fascinating new book, Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, indicates that a variety of problems may be caused specifically by modifications to modern wheat. The rapid resolution of my arthritis well before much weight loss (now 50 pounds) would seem to indicate a diet sensitivity.
Your readers may also consider removing wheat, grains and starches from their diet. I am 60 and do yoga and Pilates poses which were impossible before.
Thank you for all your great interviews. Gary Taubes and Dr. Eric Westman have had a dramatic positive affect on my health, as will Dr. Fishman.

Excellent program. I am 72 with my very first back problem. I was told by Orthopedic physician that x-rays show Spondylolisthesis. I have been doing yoga for years, very active, pain continues to progress, have tried Physical Therapy also chiropractic. Have curtailed yoga, miss it terribly – should I continue?

I assume you mixed the unflavored gelatin with water?? Or?? Marcia

I have not listened to this program yet, but I have a feeling that is more or less what I do, can’t wait to listen to it. So here is my take. I am 64 yrs old. I have Osteoarthritis, many years ago I used to be a Physical Training teacher: Aerobics, Weight Lifting, Floor exercises, Dancing and such.
On my own I participated in classes for Yoga and Martial Arts. Now many years later I cannot do most of these! EXCEPT, ‘Modified Yoga!!! by ‘modified’ I mean I do not do the extreme Yoga. I do it, every morning without failing!! Yoga Stretches. I would be lost without doing them faithfully. Is what keeps me going.
I tell everyone that is going through the same pains I’m going through about this. The secret is 1st to do them everyday, even right on your bed!!! You don’t have to get down to the floor to do them, -I hear so many people complaining, ‘if I get down on the floor I can’t get back up, or is difficult! But make sure you’re not on a twin bed, not enough room-. The 2nd secret is to hold your stretches to a count of at least 20, preferably 30 counts, slowly!! 3rd, do not ‘over stretch’! You can hurt yourself. 4th, Don’t allow anyone, not even your animals, to interrupt your stretches!! You could pull a muscle if you move suddenly!!
Just type Yoga Stretches in Google and your will find all sorts of suggestions that you can do laying on your bed, -although they will show the people doing them on the floor. There is also stretches you can do sitting on a chair! Good Luck, I swear by these!

What an informative show! I have told all my friends about your program.

Really enjoyed your program and host Dr. Fishman today.
As yoga teachers in the Plano, Richardson and Murphy area (North Dallas) we have seen many students who have benefited from the classical Hatha Yoga poses. The slow and gentle style of hatha yoga we teach has helped a number of students with such neck-/back-/shoulder-pain, arthritis, and even sciatica among other conditions. This reminds us to post some of our student testimonials to our website ( — Bharati has collected quite a few over the past 30 years.
From our experience, the benefits of yoga are as real as Dr. Fishman described. Yet, we always find it especially encouraging to hear a “medicial doctor” support and validate the therapeutic benefits of yoga. His detailed explanations based on his medical knowledge of the body answer the “how and why” yoga helps. Dr. Dean Ornish is another doctor who has a whole chapter dedicated to the key yoga poses in his book “Reversing Heart Disease.”
Most yoga teachers are not doctors and cannot “claim” such benefits without scientific proof; however, Dr. Fishman appropriately addressed this at the end of the show by saying yoga can help with a number of medical conditions but it takes science to validate them. Medical science has a long way to catch up to the ancient wisdom of yoga and I wonder if there is any incentive for researching the benefits of yoga poses — they can’t be copyrighted!. Yet such shows are an encouraging alternative to the mainstream medical treatments prescribed, many which treat symptoms instead of root cause and are riddled with side-effects.
Thank you for a great show today.

When I was in Yoga Therapy training the teachers used Fishman’s info. As a therapist I am very excited about being able to add this information to my library!

The Dr. is correct. I have “healed” shin splints, rotator problems, carpal tunnel, sinus problems, headaches, fatigue, and depression with yoga. It is truly something that van change your life around if you suffer with chronic health problems.

Thank you for an excellent show.
Wondering if Yoga might have prevented Rotator Cuff Surgery….though my infraspinatous tendon was allegedly a ful thickness tear…..

Thank you Dr Fishman!

Is this something the elderly can do?

I teach hoola hooping at the local senior centers. (spelling deliberate to avoid trademark infringement.) IMO, more fun than yoga. The way most serious hoopers practice the art, there’s a fair amount of shoulder involvement.
If you can walk and chew gum at the same time, and can get a hoop as tall as your sternum, most people can hoop. Men need bigger hoops–shoulder height.

I do and teach Yoga for ~40+ years and I expect that this will be very informative. I look forward with bated breath.

A daily packet of unsweetened/ unflavored gelatin (bovine cartilage) in juice fixed me up fast.

I’m looking forward to this programme.
I think I read the article featuring the good doctor in the New York Times about moves to relieve shoulder symptoms and it was very good.

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