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Sore knees? Try tai chi

Sore knees? Try tai chi

The practice of tai chi may be a viable alternative for physical therapy when treating knee pain, researchers claim.

Originating in China, tai chi is a mind and body practice that involves balance, strength and relaxation.

After pain medicine and before joint replacement, physical therapy is one of the few options used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee – and may also boost general wellbeing.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes the joints to become painful and stiff. The severity of osteoarthritis symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and between different affected joints. Almost any joint can be affected by osteoarthritis, but the condition most often causes problems in the knees, hips, and small joints of the hands. Being overweight can also contribute.

In a study lead by Dr Chenchen Wang from Tufts Medical Center in Boston, researchers analysed 204 people, with an average age of 60, who had knee osteoarthritis for eight years or more. They were randomly assigned into two groups, with people in one group participating in two 60-minute long tai chi sessions twice a week for 12 weeks. The other group attended two 30-minute physical therapy sessions twice a week for six weeks, followed by six weeks of monitored home exercise. All participants were allowed to continue taking their routine medications.

Overall, on average, both groups showed comparable improvements in pain and physical functioning based on standardised rating scales after 12 weeks. However, a year later researchers found that improvements in the quality of life of those who practiced tai chi was greater, on average, with improvements noted in depressive symptoms.

The researchers noted that “tai chi produced beneficial effects similar to those of a standard course of physical therapy in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis,” adding, “The benefit of Tai Chi was consistent across instructors. No serious adverse events occurred.”

The study was first published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

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