T'ai Chi Provides Appealing Way to Ease Aches and Pains of Osteoarthritis
   

T'ai Chi Provides Appealing Way to Ease Aches and Pains of Osteoarthritis

When the doctor suggests regular exercise to counter the aches and pains of osteoarthritis, it may seem more like a recipe for torture than a program for improved health. This may explain why so few manage to follow their doctors' orders. And as people grow older and limit physical activity, arthritis can take an increasingly severe toll. A new study, however, suggests that there may be a very appealing way to keep osteoarthritis at bay. T'ai chi, an ancient Chinese form of exercise that has a meditative quality about it, may be the ideal intervention to ease some of the mental and physical pains associated with osteoarthritis. Practiced in China mainly for its health benefits, t'ai chi involves focused attention, deep breathing, and slow graceful movements. The objective is to attain a state of balance between mind and body. Surprisingly, the energy expended in doing t'ai chi is comparable to other low to medium intensity aerobic activities.

In a small study, participants were recruited from several community settings and randomly assigned to a t'ai chi group or a non-t'ai chi group. The average age of participants was 68; all had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the lower joints, and had symptoms in the knees, hips, ankles, and foot joints. Those in the t'ai chi group took two 1-hour t'ai chi classes each week for 12 weeks. Those in the other group were encouraged to continue their normal physical activities instead of learning t'ai chi.

Comparing scores of the two groups before and after the 12-week period led researchers to the conclusion the t'ai chi group made small but significant gains in most areas examined. They were better able to manage arthritis symptoms, control fatigue, and deal with the frustration of arthritis. They also showed improved stamina and psychological and mental well-being. In contrast, the non-t'ai chi group stayed the same or declined slightly.

While this was a small study, it suggests that the practice of t'ai chi may enable those suffering from osteoarthritis to overcome some of their aches and pains.


References

Hartman CA, Manos TM, Winter C, Hartman DM, Li B, Smith JC. Effects of T'ai Chi training on function and quality of life indicators in older adults with osteoarthritis. J Am Ger Soc. 2000;48:1553-1559.


Review Date: December 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

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