Tai Chi found to be successful physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis

By Rebecca Burton • Published: September 26th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Physical therapy is often used to alleviate certain types of joint and muscle pain. But a recent study shows there may be a more chilled-out method to reap the benefits of physical therapy — the practice of Tai Chi, a type of Chinese martial art.

The study by Tufts University researchers, presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting, investigated whether or not Tai Chi can be as effective as traditional physical therapy in treating knee osteoarthritis. This condition causes joint cartilage in the knee to break down, leading to long-term pain and stiffness.

During the study, 204 participants with the condition were placed into two random groups. Their average age was 60 years old. One group spent 12 weeks practicing classical Tai Chi twice a week, while the other group was given physical therapy. Both groups were monitored for improvements or changes in pain and functioning.

Using a well-established scientific index for evaluating arthritic symptoms, the researchers found that those who practiced the slow, deliberate movements of Tai Chi improved 167 points on the measurement scale. Those who underwent traditional therapy improved 143 points. The Tai Chi participants also experienced higher levels of pain improvement.

Those who practiced Tai Chi also noted improvement in depression, which researchers believe is related to the mind-body connection that is emphasized when the martial art is practiced. Both therapies allowed the participants to lower their pain medication dosages.

The researchers hope their works sheds light on Tai Chi’s potential as an alternative, therapeutic treatment for the body — and the mind.