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Tai Chi Improves Knee Osteoarthritis Pain in Elderly


Elderly individuals who have osteoarthritis of the knee may experience improvement in pain and physical function if they practice Tai Chi regularly, according to researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine. Tai Chi may also help patients with osteoarthritis enjoy better mood and overall health.

Knee osteoarthritis is a common ailment among the elderly in the United States, affecting about 4.3 million adults older than 60, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also notes that about 50 percent of adults may develop symptoms of osteoarthritis in at least one knee by age 85. This disease can have a severe impact on mobility and self-efficacy, increase the risk of falls and fractures, and contribute to feelings of depression.

The researchers from Tufts enrolled 40 elderly patients who had knee osteoarthritis and who were otherwise in good health. Half the patients participated in a one-hour Tai Chi class, Yang style, twice weekly for 12 weeks. Each session included 10 minutes of self-massage and a review of Tai Chi principles, 30 minutes of Tai Chi movement, and 10 minutes each of breathing techniques and relaxation.

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The other 20 patients participated in two one-hour instructional classes per week for 12 weeks. These individuals received information about osteoarthritis, diet and nutrition, and therapies for the disease. Patients also engaged in 20 minutes of stretching exercises that involved the upper and lower body and the trunk.

At the end of the 12 weeks, the patients who had participated in Tai Chi had a significant reduction in knee pain compared with the patients in the control group. The Tai Chi participants also showed improvement in physical function, depression, self-efficacy, and health status for knee osteoarthritis.

Tai Chi (Chuan) is a traditional style of Chinese martial arts in which participants engage in slow, gentle, rhythmic movements that have been shown to improve balance, flexibility, and strength, and induce mental relaxation. Several previous studies have looked at the benefits of Tai Chi on chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis. A University of Arkansas study among elderly patients with knee osteoarthritis showed some improvement in pain. A review of six studies of chronic arthritis and Tai Chi noted that patients had improvement in health-related quality of life, pain, and disability.

Chenchen W et al. Arthritis Care & Research 2009 Oct. 29 online
Hall A et al. Arthritis & Rheumatism 2009 Jun 15; 61(6): 717-24
Tsai PF et al. Geriatric Nursing 2009 Mar-Apr; 30(2): 132-39



I've heard wonderful things about the <a href="http://www.learntaichinow.com/tai-chi-health-benefits">benefits of tai chi</a>. I haven't started yet, but I'll be going in to take a class about it soon. I want to get the technique down first, before doing it on my own!