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Tai Chi And Osteoarthritis In Seniors

October 30, 2009
According to a study published in the November issue of Arthritis Care & Research, Chenchen Wang, MD, MSc, and colleagues from Tufts University School of Medicine have determined that patients over 65 years of age with knee osteoarthritis (OA) who engage in regular Tai Chi exercise improve physical function and experience less pain. This traditional style of Chinese martial arts features slow, rhythmic movements to induce mental relaxation and enhance balance, strength and flexibility. CDC figures state there are 4.3 million U.S. adults over age 60 diagnosed with knee OA, a common form of arthritis that causes wearing of joint cartilage and half of American adults may develop symptoms of OA in at least one knee by age 85. For this study, researchers recruited 40 patients with an average age of 65 and with confirmed knee OA, but in otherwise good health. Half participated in 60-minute Yang style Tai Chi sessions twice weekly for 12 weeks. Each session included a 10-minute self-massage and a review of Tai Chi principles; 30 minutes of Tai Chi movement; 10 minutes of breathing technique; and 10 minutes of relaxation. The half assigned to the control group attended two 60-minute class sessions per week including 40 minutes of instruction covering OA as a disease, diet and nutrition, therapies to treat OA, or physical and mental health education and 20 minutes of stretching exercises involving the upper body, trunk, and lower body, with each stretch being held for 10-15 seconds. At the end of the 12-week period, patients practicing Tai Chi exhibited a significant decrease in knee pain compared with those in the control group. The physical components of Tai Chi are consistent with current exercise recommendations for OA, which include range of motion, flexibility, muscle conditioning and aerobic workouts. Researchers believe the mental feature of Tai Chi addresses negative effects of chronic pain by promoting psychological wellbeing, life satisfaction and perceptions of health. For more on the benefits on Tai Chi, see