Hydrotherapy, Tai Chi can ease osteoarthritis

Armen Hareyan's picture

Tai Chi Exercise and Arthritis Treatment

Age old problems of the human beings have found a new solution as both water-based exercise and the Chinese exercise system Tai Chi can help older people with severe arthritis move and feel better.

According to Marlene Fransen of The George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney and her colleagues, among men and women 60 and older with chronic osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

Those who participated in 12 weeks of hydrotherapy or Tai Chi experienced significant improvements in pain and physical function scores.

However, participants in the hydrotherapy group were more likely to attend sessions than those assigned to Tai Chi.

They also experienced significant improvements in measurements of physical performance, such as ability to climb stairs and walk, which weren't seen in the Tai Chi group.

Fransen and her team conclude in the medical journal that hydrotherapy classes appeared to be more acceptable, appeared to provide greater relief of joint pain, and resulted in larger improvements in objective measurements of physical performance.


The researchers randomly assigned 152 people to hydrotherapy, Tai Chi, or a waiting group. Classes lasted an hour and were offered twice a week.

After 12 weeks, there were significant improvements on scores measuring pain and physical function in both groups.

Both groups also showed improvements in physical performance scores, but these improvements were only significant from a statistical standpoint in the hydrotherapy group.

At 24 weeks, all improvements had been sustained, and were greater than have been demonstrated in studies of traditional land-based exercise for arthritis patients, the researchers noted.

Among the hydrotherapy group, 81 percent attended 12 or more of the 24 available classes, compared to 61 percent of those assigned to Tai Chi.

Fransen and her colleagues said, Just one of the study participants was Asian while the rest were others, which may have made them less accepting of the Tai Chi exercises.

They also point out that Tai Chi requires participants to stand with knees bent, which can be difficult for individuals suffering from knee pain.