For this study, Chenchen Wang, M.D., M.Sc., and colleagues recruited 40 patients from the greater Boston area with confirmed knee OA who were in otherwise good health. The mean age of participants was 65 years with a mean body mass index of 30.0 kg/m2. Patients were randomly selected and 20 were asked to participate in 60-minute Yang style Tai Chi sessions twice weekly for 12 weeks. Each session included: a 10-minute self-massage and a review of Tai Chi principles; 30 minutes of Tai Chi movement; 10 minutes of breathing technique; and 10 minutes of relaxation.
The remaining 20 participants assigned to the control group attended two 60-minute class sessions per week for 12 weeks. Each control session included 40 minutes of instruction covering OA as a disease, diet and nutrition, therapies to treat OA, or physical and mental health education. The final 20 minutes consisted of stretching exercises involving the upper body, trunk, and lower body, with each stretch being held for 10-15 seconds.
At the end of the 12-week period, patients practicing Tai Chi exhibited a significant decrease in knee pain compared with those in the control group. Using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain scale, researchers noted a -118.80 reduction in pain from baseline between the Tai Chi and control group. Researchers also observed improved physical function, self-efficacy, depression, and health status for knee OA in subjects in the Tai Chi group. “Our observations emphasize a need to further evaluate the biologic mechanisms and approaches of Tai Chi to extend its benefits to a broader population,” concluded Dr. Wang.