Tai Chi can reduce pain and improve function in people who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University and published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.
Tai Chi is a traditional form of Chinese exercise that involves slow, rhythmic movements. The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Researchers conducted the study on 40 people over the age of 55 who were suffering from arthritis of the knee. Half the participants were assigned to either a twice-a-week Tai Chi class, while half were assigned to a twice-a-week general wellness and stretching class. All participants were instructed to repeat their Tai Chi or stretching exercises at home for 20 minutes per day. At the beginning and end of the study, they filled out questionnaires about their pain, mental state, quality of life and other health-related information.
All exercises used in the study were designed to avoid aggravating arthritis of the knee.
After 12 weeks, participants in the Tai Chi group reported a 75 percent reduction in pain and a 72 percent increase in their ability to perform daily tasks, such as climbing stairs. These numbers were significantly higher than those of the control group. Participants in the Tai Chi group also reported significantly less depression and better health than patients in the control group.
Thirty-six weeks after the conclusion of the study, fewer than half of the participants were still doing the exercises they had been assigned. By this time, there was little difference in pain, ability to perform daily tasks, or other health measures between the two groups. People who had been in the Tai Chi group still had significantly lower depression scores than people who had been in the stretching group, however.
Osteoarthritis patients seeking to try Tai Chi should be sure to inform their instructors about their arthritis or other health conditions.