How Tai Chi Helps Manage Arthritis Pain

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woman doing tai chi

Arthritis is more than just an illness that causes stiff joints. For older adults with advanced arthritis, the condition can cause extreme pain that diminishes mobility. It may lead to a sedentary lifestyle that causes isolation and even more pain.

People who have tried popular prescription arthritis medications might find the side effects, such as stomach problems and headaches, as tough to manage as the illness itself. Natural remedies for pain and symptom control might be another option to explore. One is an ancient form of exercise known as Tai Chi.

What Research Shows about Tai Chi and Arthritis Pain

As seniors worry about limiting exposure to the coronavirus, at-home treatments and exercise programs have gained popularity. Is Tai Chi as effective as physical therapy for treating arthritis? Researchers believe it just might be.

A 12-week study of 200 adults living with osteoarthritis in their knees set out to answer this question. Scientists hoped to show that adopting a Tai Chi routine can help seniors manage the pain and symptoms associated with this chronic and sometimes debilitating condition.

Participants in the study were split into two groups. One group underwent physical therapy, while the other practiced Tai Chi:

  • Physical therapy: Participants in the therapy group attended two 30-minute sessions of one-on-one physical therapy for the first 6 weeks. They then engaged in 6 weeks of home-based physical therapy closely monitored by project staff members.
  • Tai Chi: The second group of participants focused on using Tai Chi to manage arthritis. They attended two 1-hour Tai Chi sessions every week for all 12 weeks of the study. These sessions taught them the movements and motions of this ancient form of exercise.

By the end of the 12-week period, pain levels improved for both groups, but Tai Chi participants realized the greatest health benefits. This group not only said their arthritis felt better, but they also saw their mental and physical health improve.

Slow and Steady Movements Improve Flexibility

Many people wonder how beneficial such a slow, simple exercise can truly be. The answer lies in improved muscle mass and increased flexibility. Tai Chi helps:

  • Improve muscle strength: Increasing muscle strength in the areas surrounding damaged joints relieves pressure. This helps reduce pain and swelling. Tai Chi, a low-impact form of exercise, allows just that.
  • Increase flexibility: When pain is intense, people with arthritis find moving difficult. Unfortunately, avoiding movement makes it worse. Tai Chi uses slow, gentle movements that stretch muscles and loosen joints. That flexibility allows a person to get moving again, which reduces swelling and lowers pain.
  • Promote overall fitness: Tai Chi only looks mild. In reality, people who practice it find their strength and stamina both improve. Tai Chi also teaches breathing techniques that beat stress and reduce anxiety. For someone with chronic pain, that’s another plus.

Lifestyle360 Nurtures the Whole Body

At Five Star Senior Living, we take a holistic approach to wellness. Residents have opportunities every day to engage in activities that nurture the body, mind, and spirit. We call it Lifestyle360. Call (853) 457-8271 for more information on our wellness programs today!