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Tai Chi Can Improve Pain and Function in Knee Arthritis

Last Updated: October 30, 2009.

The ancient Chinese exercise practice Tai Chi can reduce pain, preserve functionality, and improve personal well-being among subjects with knee osteoarthritis, according to a study published online Oct. 29 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

FRIDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The ancient Chinese exercise practice Tai Chi can reduce pain, preserve functionality, and improve personal well-being among subjects with knee osteoarthritis, according to a study published online Oct. 29 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Chenchen Wang , M.D., of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, and colleagues randomized 40 patients with tibiofemoral osteoarthritis to 60 minutes of Tai Chi exercise or wellness education and stretching twice a week for 12 weeks. Study outcomes were pain and functional scores on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), as well as patient and physician assessments on visual analog scales (VAS), timed chair stand, and depression, quality of life and self-efficacy measures. Assessments were repeated at 24 and 48 weeks.

The researchers found that the patients who practiced Tai Chi had greater improvement in WOMAC pain scores and function at 12 weeks than the control group (pain mean difference, −118.80 mm; function mean difference, −324.60 mm), as well as patient and physician assessment (patient VAS, −2.15 cm; physician VAS, −1.71 cm), and chair stand time (−10.88 seconds). The Tai Chi group also scored better on the depression and self-efficacy scales. WOMAC pain scores were still significantly reduced at 24 and 48 weeks.

"These observations emphasize a need to further evaluate the biologic mechanisms and approaches of Tai Chi to extend its benefits to a broader population. Further studies should replicate these results and deepen our understanding of this therapeutic modality," the authors write.

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