Is Tai Chi Effective for Knee Osteoarthritis Pain, Function and Other Symptoms.

 

Logos 005A new study presented recently at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Francisco concluded that both Tai Chi and Physical Therapy positively im,pact pain, function, and other symptoms of knee osteoarthritis–making Tai Chi a viable alternative for people suffering with this disease.   Joints under high stress due to repeated activities or weight bearing are most suceptible to osteoarthritis such as the hips, knees, hands, and spine.  Osteoparthritis becomes more common with aging and causes long term pain especially in the knees. Physical therapy has been a popular treatment for the condition. Although studies have shown that Tai Chi was effective for osteoarthritis, this was the first to compare it with physical therapy. Researchers said “Based on our previous investigation, we directly compared the effectiveness of the two therapies eacvh known to have health benefits  for knee OA.”

In the study 204 subjects with symptomatic and radiologic knee osteoarthritis (OA) were randomly placed in 2 groups. The first group of 106 subjects completed 12 weeks of classical Yang style  Tai chi twice a week. The second group of 98 completed physical therapy twice a week for six weeks and then were monitored as they followed six weeks of at home physical therapy exercises. Subjects were an average of 60 years of age, who had suffered from knee osterarthritis 8 years, had a BMI of 33, and were predominately white women Researchers looked for changes in pain and function using the Western Ontario and McMaster University Arthritis Index (WOMAC), depression, quality of life, and pain medication usage. Researchers also asked patients to assess their own pain and function and to complete   two-meter and six minute walking tests.

subjects in both groups had similar characteristics and test results in the beginning . At week 12  the WOMAC scores had improved by 167 points for the Tai Chi group and 143 points for the physical therapy group. In addition, there was no significant difference in pain improvement,. However, when subjects completed a 36 question survey researechers noted significant improvements in the results of the Tai Chi group at the 1`2 week mark. In addition, the Tai Chi group noted improvement in depression. Both groups reduced pain medication over time but their reaction to that reduction did not differ at 12 weeks but did differ at 24 weeks with NSAIDs and 52 weeks with analgesics. Researchers concluded Tai Chi should be considered a therapy option and they should work with a seasoned instructor in order to get proper instructions.

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