CIDP and Yoga
CIDP and yoga are not enemies. Yoga is an excellent practice in managing the body’s stress responses and may help ease nerve inflammation in the body.
By Shiraz Abbas
An acquaintance of mine, let us call her Sarah for privacy reasons, was diagnosed with CIDP (Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy) over a decade ago. She was a teacher at a California school. However, she was slowly but gradually struck with numbness in her peripheries. After going through a NCV test, she was diagnosed with CIDP. In addition to treating herself with IVIG, Sarah found complementary therapies to help her cope with her disease. One complimentary therapy she found useful was yoga.
Since she complimented her IVIg treatment with yoga practice, Sarah has been able to manage and beat back her CIDP. As we speak, Sarah is symptom free of CIDP and does not take medication. The severe pain that she had felt in her feet are no longer there. Although Sarah has looked at other alternative ways of helping her illness (supplements, diet etc.) the only consistent therapy she has used outside of medical treatment is yoga.
People of any age or sex can get CIDP. Most people who do get CIDP are usually in their 60s and 70s. Men are twice as likely to get CIDP than women. There are approximately 40,000 at a time that are diagnosed with CIDP in the U.S, but the number may be higher as the disease is often misdiagnosed as a common form of neuropathy.
CIDP, like MS and arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder meaning that the body’s immune system begins attacking itself, and in the case of CIDP or GBS (Guillain-Barré Syndrome), the body attacks its peripheral nerves. There is no limit as to where the immune system may attack itself. Often enough, people with autoimmune diseases will have multiple diseases. For example, someone with CIDP may also have diabetes or arthritis.
Autoimmune diseases like CIDP are very complex and may be the result of a wide array of imbalances in life, including genes, infections, diet, and mental well-being. Although yoga is not a cure, it may help address some of the factors that contribute to CIDP.
So what’s up with yoga? Yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, meaning that it has a calming influence in our bodies. By doing so, it relaxes the body’s stress reactions. This is very important in keeping the immune system from going haywire. Studies show that certain yoga exercises reduce the inflammatory responses in the body which is an underlying problem for people with CIDP.
According to an National Geographic article, the following is stated:
Now, in the largest study of yoga that used biological measures to assess results, it seems that those meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation.
That’s important because inflammation is associated with chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. It’s also one of the reasons that cancer survivors commonly feel fatigue for months, even years, following treatment.
Yoga may also help people deal with the psychological challenges of CIDP. Yoga provides people with the ability to focus away from their physical pain to something deeper inside that is unchanging and not alterable, namely our sense of awareness.
Another acquaintance of mine, let’s call her Laura, hasn’t been healed of CIDP through yoga. However, yoga has managed to reduce her pain quite noticeably where in combination with her steroids, she’s able to function throughout the day.
In addition to the physical benefits of yoga, the practice is helpful as it reorients our chaotic minds into the present. Much of our stressors in life create mental chaos, thus taking us away from the calming state of being in the present moment and in a state of awareness. It is in this present moment that we can help address one of the contributing factors to our CIDP.
Shiraz Abbas is the founder and manager of the CIDP Neuropathy Support Group. He is also one of the main community educators of IVIG therapy. He resides in Fresno, California. Shiraz can be contacted through our free CIDP advice service at 1-855-782-0574