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