Researchers from the Tufts Medical Center in Boston reported that the traditional form of Chinese exercise called Tai Chi can help reduce pain and physical impairment in people who have knee arthritis.
Developed centuries ago in China, Tai Chi combines deep breathing and relaxation with many fundamental slow, gentle, graceful movements that flow imperceptibly and smoothly from one to the other. These movements are low impact and put minimal stress on the joints and muscles. It can bring improvement to balance, flexibility and muscle function.
Five previous trials were conducted to study the benefits of Tai Chi on knee osteoarthritis. Three found significant improvements in pain and physical function. However the other two found no significant improvements.
The researchers studied a group of twenty people in over 55 with severe knee osteoarthritis. This group did 10 modified forms from classical Yang style Tai Chi for an hour twice a week for 12 weeks. A second, similar group of patients did the same amount of conventional stretching exercises during the same time period. The participants averaged ten years since their osteoarthritis diagnosis.
The group that performed tai chi reported greater pain reduction, less depression and improvements in physical function and overall health.
According to lead researcher Dr. Chenchen Wang, “Tai Chi mind-body exercise appears to provide an important approach for self-care and self-management for knee (osteoarthritis).”
The study provided the latest evidence that Tai Chi may offer benefits for people with arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation advocacy group recommends it for improving the quality of life of people with arthritis.
The results of this study were presented at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in San Francisco.