Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that uses an integrated mind-body approach to enhance muscle function, balance, and flexibility and has been known to reduce pain, depression and anxiety in those who practice the exercise.
Osteoarthritis, or OA as it is commonly called, is the most common joint disease affecting middle age and older people. It can limit movement and cause pain and swelling.
"Tai chi mind-body exercise appears to provide an important approach for self-care and self-management for knee OA; however, these results should be confirmed by future large studies," said Dr Chenchen Wan, MSc, Tufts Medical Center, Division of Rheumatology, and lead investigator in the study.
In the new study, the researchers from Tufts Medical Center set out to determine if tai chi could successfully treat the physical and mental effects of severe knee OA.
They recruited a total of 40 patients who were on average 65 years in age and moderately overweight, and had knee OA for approximately 10 years; 75 percent of the patients were female and 70 percent were Caucasian.
The participants were introduced to either tai chi (10 modified forms from he classical Yang style) or to conventional stretching and wellness education.
Each group received the intervention twice-weekly for 60 minutes over the course of 12 weeks.
They found that tai chi is effective in the treatment of the pain and physical impairments in people with severe knee OA.
The research was presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.