Dr Paul Lam
Conducted by three Korean professors and a Sydney general practitioner with the collaboration of two universities and one major hospital, it is the largest randomized study of its kind. The study has shown that after three months, patients have 35% less pain, 29% less stiffness, 29% more ability to perform daily tasks, as well as improved abdominal muscles and better balance.
New Study Shows Tai Chi Improves Arthritis
Arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability; it is now a national health priority with the overall annual financial cost of around $9 billion in Australia. A newly published study has shown the low-tech and low-cost ancient art of tai chi improves the condition significantly in a short period of time. It would help people with arthritis to know what is available to them.
The Arthritis Foundations of Australia, USA and UK have supported this safe, effective, and easy-to-learn tai chi program.
Published in September 2003 in the Journal of Rheumatolgy and conducted by three Korean professors and a Sydney family physician Dr Paul Lam in collaboration with two universities and one major hospital, it is the largest randomized study of its kind. Based on the 12 forms of Sun-style tai chi (created by Dr Paul Lam and a team of tai chi and medical experts), the study found that after 12 weeks, the arthritic symptoms, balance, and physical functioning of older women with OA were greatly improved.
The study has shown that after three months, patients have 35% less pain, 29% less stiffness, 29% more ability to perform daily tasks (like climbing stairs), as well as improved abdominal muscles and better balance.
The Arthritis Foundation of Australia has stated that arthritis affects more than 16.5% of Australians. This is probably too low in view of the first state-by-state survey of arthritis and chronic joint symptoms from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, October 2002. It shows that one in three American adults are affected.
The following are answers from the lead author, Dr Rhayun Song, RN, PhD:
Question 1: What are the main findings of the study?
The study has found that:
1) this program being very safe for old women with Osteoarthritis to perform during 12-week period.
2) at the completion of 12-week Tai Chi exercise, they felt less pain, and less difficulties in doing their activities of daily living.
3) at the completion of 12-week Tai Chi exercise, they have stronger abdominal muscle strength and better balance, which prevent the old women from falling.
Question 2: Is there something new that this study brings to this area of research?
Recently, many studies are focusing on Tai Chi, but it is the first time to apply Tai Chi exercise specifically designed for arthritis patients, and actually test the effects with arthritis patients as random trial. It’s important for arthritis patients to manage pain and improve balance so that they can do more in their daily activities and enjoy better quality of life. These study findings confirm that the exercise can provide that.
Question 3: Please explain the experimental methods and design
We recruited 72 women and assigned them into two groups with random table; 38 women performed Tai Chi exercise for 12 weeks, while the other 34 women received the standard treatment only at the out patients clinic. After 12 weeks, 22 women in the exercise group and 21 women in the control group completed the post test measures with 41% of dropout rates. There were significant differences in their pain, difficulties of daily activities, balance, and abdominal muscle strength between the groups.
Question 4: Any message for the public based on the findings?
It’s important for arthritis patients to select a safe form of any exercise and actually perform the exercise, regularly and consistently. We strongly believe even arthritis patients can get huge benefits from exercise if they do the right one.
Question 5: Why do you think tai chi helped the patients?
Tai Chi for Arthritis is based on the Sun-style, one of major styles of Tai Chi. It was developed by Dr. Lam and his associates specifically for arthritis patients. It consisted of flexibility, strengthening, and fitness exercises with very slow and continuously movements. Because of its typical slow movements continuously moving forward and backward, it can enhance people’s muscle strengths and their balance without causing pain to the patients. Once they perform exercise, general effects of exercise ( better circulation around joints et al.) begin to become evident and lead to the many health benefits. Our research team strongly believe that Tai chi is one of the safe exercise forms for arthritis patients.