Several studies already pointed towards this conclusion, but new research reinforces the hypothesis that practising tai chi regularly can relieve arthritis pain. Tai chi is a type of traditional Chinese exercise made up of a series of movements performed slowly and smoothly.
In 2009, nearly one in seven Canadians reported having been diagnosed with arthritis. The pain and discomfort associated with this condition can be partly relieved by medication, but physical exercise can also play an important role in improving well-being for affected individuals.
It is a well-known fact pertaining to the principles of physiotherapy that strengthening muscles and improving balance are beneficial to persons with arthritis. However, patients rarely devote themselves happily and consistently to repetitive physiotherapy exercises. The numerous movements associated with tai chi therefore offer more variety.
Working with a tai chi professor, the American Arthritis Foundation designed a series of exercises intended for patients with arthritis. Some of the exercises can even be performed from a seated position. For this study, 354 participants from 20 different communities were divided into two groups. All participants had some form of arthritis pain (e.g. from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia). The first group took part in the tai chi program, while the second group did not, after which it was the second group’s turn to take part. The program included two tai chi sessions per week for eight weeks.
The findings show that this lighter version of tai chi helped reduce pain and improve both joint mobility and quality of life for many patients with arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia. A similar study published recently found that fibromyalgia patients who took two tai chi lessons per week for three months experienced less pain, stiffness and fatigue than others who attended lifestyle education and stretching sessions instead.
In Quebec, many sports centres, community recreation departments and specialized centres offer tai chi classes. For those who suffer from joint pain, these research findings are a good argument in favour of trying this form of exercise.