Tai Chi Reduces Knee Osteoarthritis Pain In The Elderly

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tai chi for knee osteoarthritis

Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine have found that patients over 55 years old with knee osteoarthritis have lesser knee pain with Tai Chi. They also have better improvement in their physical functions.

What Is Knee Osteoarthritis?

Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition. It causes pain but also lead to poor muscle function, decreased knee proprioception, impaired physical functions and even psychological distress.

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that encompasses mind and body approach. This is to enhance muscle function, balance, flexibility and reduce pain, depression and anxiety. It may also be a good approach to treat knee osteoarthritis.

Research On Tai Chi And Knee Osteoarthritis

Dr Jordan and his team randomly divided 40 participants into two groups – the Tai Chi group and Control group. They are suffering from knee osteoarthritis, and aged 55 and above. All participants had to attend 60 minutes of either intervention two times weekly for 12 weeks.

Pain, physical function, balance tests, self efficacy and depression were measured at the first week, 12th weeks, 24th weeks, and 48th weeks of the interventions using a range of measuring tools.

The Tai Chi Group were taught 10 modified forms of classical Yang style exercises.  Each session included 10 minutes of self massage and a review of Tai chi principles; 30 minutes of Tai Chi movements; 10 minutes of breathing technique; and 10 minutes of relaxation.

On the other hand, the control group was taught stretching for 10 minutes. They also attended 40 minutes wellness education including osteoarthritis as a disease, diet and nutrition, therapies to treat osteoarthritis, or physical and mental health education.


The results showed that participants who continued Tai Chi after 12 weeks had more long-lasting benefits with lesser knee pain and better physical functions compared with the control group.

The researchers suggested that Tai Chi is an effective exercise to treat pain and physical impairment for patients with severe osteoarthritis knee but notes the need to carry out more research to further understand the mechanism of Tai Chi in osteoarthritis knee.


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Tai Chi is effective in treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial, C C Wang, C H Schmid, P L Hibberd, R Kalish, R Roubenoff, R Rones and T McAlindon, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 2008;16:S32-33