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Tai chi helps arthritis pain, stiffness
November 7th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Tai chi helps arthritis pain, stiffness

The ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi may be  an effective  way to help alleviate problems associated with arthritis, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine report.

An estimated 50 million adults in the U.S. have  some form of arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although many of these people turn to medication to help them deal with the pain, the medical community continues to look for ways to help these patients.

Tai chi was originally used to train Chinese warriors before they went into battle. Today it's a popular form of exercise. Tai chi classes incorporate slow movements and balance, helping participants concentrate on the connection between the mind and the body.

In this study, researchers followed 354 participants who were recruited from 20 sites in states of North Carolina and New Jersey. To be eligible for the study, participants had to have a diagnosis of some form of arthritis. Once they were selected, the patients were randomly assigned into two groups. One group received an eight-week, twice-weekly tai chi course immediately; the other group delayed  classes for eight weeks.

After the first eight weeks, all participants were asked about their state of health, the amount of pain they were having and whether they were experiencing any other discomfort. Pain, fatigue, stiffness and other physical functions, such as balance and gait speed were measured.

"At the end of eight weeks the individuals who had received the intervention showed moderate improvements in pain, fatigue and stiffness," said Dr. Leigh Callahan, the study's lead author and a member of UNC's Thurston Arthritis Research Center. "They also had an increased sense of well-being, as measured by the psychosocial variables, and they had improved reach or balance."

After the second group finished its eight weeks of tai chi classes,  its members, too, saw improvements.

"Our study shows that there are significant benefits of the tai chi course for individuals with all types of arthritis, including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis," Callahan said. "We found this in both rural and urban settings across a Southeastern state and a Northeastern state."

Other rsearch has show similar results.  In August,  the New England Journal of Medicine reported that fibromyalgia patients who took tai chi classes twice a week for three months experienced less pain, stiffness, and fatigue than a group who went to lifestyle education and stretching sessions.


soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Derek

    I've been doing Tai Chi or Qi-Gong for 8-10 years and everytime I stop for a bit I notice my body getting tight and sore. I truly believe Tai Chi can keep you young and vibrant.

    November 8, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Karen

    Good to see that Tai chi is helping, but maybe researchers and physicians can look at the diet first. Rheumatoid and Reactive arthritis as well as fibromyalgia are autoimmune diseases. Almost all autoimmune diseases start in the gut. We wrote this post on this subject http://bit.ly/a9Gvjk. Hopefully the readers can benefit by it.

    November 8, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Rick

    I have been studying Tai Chi regularly for the past ten years. The benefits of gentle Tai Chi forms have helped reduce discomfort from osteo arthritis and degenerative disc disease. Some of the benefits were noted within a few months. Other benefits (strength) were more apparent after more months went by. The Arthritis Foundation co-sponsors Tai Chi for Arthritis programs around the country to accomplish what the University of North Carolina study results have suggested.

    November 8, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Aileen

    Studying and now teaching Tai Chi, I have both experienced and witnessed amazing improvements personally and among fellow students. In NZ we are fortunate that our Accident Compensation Corporation sponsor a program for falls prevention among the more elderly with great results!

    November 8, 2010 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Nedra Dye

    I live in Sarasota FL. Any schools in the area offering TaiChi. Are there videos that can be purchased to
    teach the art of TaiChi?

    November 10, 2010 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Susan

      The Sarasota County Library has tai chi for arthritis videos.

      November 19, 2010 at 20:43 | Report abuse |
    • Rick B

      Look up tampashaolin.com

      August 12, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
  6. Health Informer

    Arthritis is a term that describes not just one disease but more than 100 different conditions. The term is a combination of the Greek words arth (joint) and itis (inflammation) – means joint inflammation.

    http://health-informer.com/what-is-arthritis

    November 22, 2010 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Scott Richman

    Check out our new DVD – Power and Serenity – The Art of Master Ren GuangYi - Featuring over 70 minutes of new detailed instruction and demonstrations in 19 Form and Silk Reeling...including 6 new original compositions/tracks by poet, photographer, student and rock legend – Lou Reed @ http://www.rentaichi.com

    November 27, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Raghunath

    Thanks for the information.

    SBF Health Care in Bangalore and Mumbai provides treatment for Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Aktis, Arthroscopy, Physiotherapy, Knee Joint Pain, Osteoarthritis Knee, Osteoarthritis Treatment, Knee Surgery, Knee Replacement, Knee Pain, Total Knee Replacement, Knee Arthroscopy, Articular Cartilage, Arthritis Symptoms, Arthritis Treatment, Pain Knee, Arthritis Knee Pain, Arthritis Pain, Arthritis Joint Pain, QMR Therapy and Medical Tourism in India.

    January 7, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Arthritic Joint Pain

    Rheumatoid arthritis is a very painful condition. This is due to the immune system attacks the joints of the body, allowing inflammation and pain. In some cases, damage to internal organs by the immune system too.

    December 23, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kayliew Fitzkeb

    Greetings from Ohio! I'm bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you provide here and can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, good blog!

    August 1, 2012 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Practice tai chi

    Learn authentic yang and Chen style tai chi in Florida. http://www.practicekungfu.com

    May 14, 2013 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Harvey Ventresca

    Many different conditions can lead to painful joints, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains, sprains, and other injuries. Joint pain is extremely common. In one national survey, about one-third of adults reported having joint pain within the past 30 days. Knee pain was the most common complaint, followed by shoulder and hip pain, but joint pain can affect any part of your body, from your ankles to your shoulders. As you get older, painful joints become increasingly more common."-^

    Please do inspect our own web site

    http://www.healthmedicinejournal.comek

    June 23, 2013 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.