Tai Chi May Ease Knee Pain

People With Severe Osteoarthritis Got Relief From Practicing Tai Chi, Study Shows

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 25, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 25, 2008 -- A new study shows the ancient Chinese movement art of tai chi can help ease knee pain in people who have severe osteoarthritis.

Researchers, led by Chenchen Wang, MD, MSc, from Tufts Medical Center in Boston, got together 40 people with severe knee osteoarthritis who reported knee pain on most days of the previous month.

The average age of the study participants was 65. All had osteoarthritis for an average of 10 years and were considered overweight, with an average body mass index of 30.

One group practiced an hour of tai chi (adapted from the classical yang style) twice a week for 12 weeks. The comparison group received the same amount of time stretching and boning up on wellness education.

Researchers wanted to see how scores on pain, physical function, health-related quality of life, and mood changed at the end of 12 weeks. They found that the tai chi group improved more than the other group in scores of pain, physical function, depression, and physical quality of life.

Researchers repeated the assessments at 24 weeks and 48 weeks and found that the group that continued to practice tai chi had less pain and longer-lasting function benefits.

A recent CDC study found that the lifetime risk of having symptomatic knee osteoarthritis was nearly 45%, with increased risk for people with history of a knee injury.

Tai chi, sometimes called a “soft martial art,” uses flowing, gentle movements and balancing postures. It also employs a meditative quality, as the mind focuses on the body movements.

The results are being released Oct. 25 at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

The research was partially funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.