The ancient practice of tai chi has been found to offer benefits and improvements in patients with knee osteoarthritis when anti-inflammatory and physical therapies fail. Not only did tai chi benefit knee osteoarthritis, but it was found to improve well-being as well.
Tai chi was found to be particularly beneficial for patients who are overweight or obese, as they are more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis.
Dr. Chenchen Wang, Director of the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, said, “Such people typically face limited options due to ineffectiveness of osteoarthritis treatments.”
For the study, the researchers followed 200 people with an average age of 60. Majority of the participants were overweight or obese, and had knee osteoarthritis for eight years on average.
The participants either took part in tai chi or physical therapy. The tai chi group trained twice a week for 12 weeks, and the physical therapy group trained twice a week for six weeks and then completed at-home exercises for additional six weeks. Participants were continued taking their anti-inflammatory and pain medications and stuck with their routine medical appointments.
At the end of the 12 weeks, participants answered questionnaires to evaluate pain, stiffness, and joint function. Both groups saw similar results, which lasted up to a year’s time.
Differences in the tai chi group included greater relief from depression, improved sleep, and reduction in stress.
Dr. Matthew Hepinstall, an orthopedic surgeon in New York City, commented, “Tai chi helps patients preserve and improve function by increasing strength, flexibility, and coordination while avoiding aggravation of arthritic pain and inflammation. Tai chi is a particularly appealing form of exercise, as it is very low impact and emphasizes balance, coordination, and strength. Tai chi is safe and has been shown to reduce falls in the elderly.”
Arthritis medication can lead to unwanted side effects, so tai chi can be a safer method to obtain relief and improve overall well-being.