Tai Chi Reduces Knee Osteoarthritis Pain in the Elderly

Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine have found that patients over 55 years old with knee osteoarthritis have lesser knee pain and better improvement in their physical functions with Tai Chi.
xKnee osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that not only causes pain but also lead to poor muscle function, decreased knee proprioception, impaired physical functions and even psychological distress.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that encompasses mind and body approach to enhance muscle function, balance, flexibility and reduce pain, depression and anxiety may be a good approach to treat knee osteoarthritis.

In the research, Dr Jordan and his team randomly divided 40 participants of age 55 and above, suffering with osteoarthritis knee pain for most of the days in the past months into two groups – the Tai Chi group and Control group. All participants had to attend 60 minutes of either intervention two times weekly for 12 weeks.

A range of measuring tools that mainly measure pain, physical function, balance tests, self efficacy and depression were taken at the first week, 12 weeks, 24 weeks and 48 weeks of the interventions.

The Tai Chi group was taught 10 modified forms of exercise from the classical Yang style.  Each session included 10 minutes of self massage and a review of Tai chi principles; 30 minutes of Tai Chi movements; 10 minutes of breathing technique; and 10 minutes of relaxation.

The control group on the other hand was taught stretching for 10 minutes and attended 40 minutes wellness education including osteoarthritis as a disease, diet and nutrition, therapies to treat osteoarthritis, or physical and mental health education.

The results showed that participants who continued Tai Chi after 12 weeks had more long-lasting benefits with lesser knee pain and better physical functions compared with the control group.

The researchers suggested that Tai Chi is an effective exercise to treat pain and physical impairment for patients with severe osteoarthritis knee but notes the need to carry out more research to further understand the mechanism of Tai Chi in osteoarthritis knee.

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Tai Chi is effective in treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial, C C Wang, C H Schmid, P L Hibberd, R Kalish, R Roubenoff, R Rones and T McAlindon, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 2008;16:S32-33

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