The results of an analysis of studies have provided some evidence to suggest that Tai Chi is beneficial for arthritis. The study examined the effectiveness of Tai Chi in decreasing pain and disability and improving physical function and quality of life in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. Arthritis comprises more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions, the most common of which is osteoarthritis.
Other frequently occurring forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and gout. Common symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
Although arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, people of all ages (including children) can be affected. Nearly two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than age 65. Arthritis is more common among women (24.4%) than men (18.1%) in every age group, and it affects members of all racial and ethnic groups.
Musculoskeletal pain, such as that experienced by people with arthritis, places a severe burden on the patient and community and is recognized as an international health priority. Exercise therapy including such as strengthening, stretching and aerobic programs, have been shown to be effective for arthritis pain.
Tai Chi is a form of exercise that is regularly practiced in China to improve overall health and well-being. It is usually preformed in a group but is also practiced individually at one’s leisure, which differs from traditional exercise therapy approaches used in the clinic.
The study analyzed seven eligible randomized controlled trials that used Tai Chi as the main intervention for patients with musculoskeletal pain. The results demonstrate that Tai Chi improves pain and disability in patients suffering arthritis.
The authors state, “The fact that Tai Chi is inexpensive, convenient, and enjoyable and conveys other psychological and social benefits supports the use this type of intervention for pain conditions such as arthritis.”
“It is of importance to note that the results reported in this systematic review are indicative of the effect of Tai Chi versus minimal intervention (usual health care or health education) or wait list control,” the authors note. Establishing the specific effects of Tai Chi would require a placebo-controlled trial, which has not yet been undertaken.