Tai Chi is what is known as a “meditative martial art,” developed in China in the 17th century. The practice involves gentle, smooth, continuous movements to strengthen and relax the body and mind. Although there are different styles of Tai Chi, they all include mind and body integration, fluidity of movement, control of breathing and mental concentration.

There are many benefits to the practice of Tai Chi. It can:

  • improve your physical and mental health, including your heart health
  • improve posture and balance
  • build flexibility and strength
  • boost mood
  • reduce pain
  • strengthen the immune system

What are the benefits of Tai Chi for arthritis?

While it has many health benefits, the practice of Tai Chi has also been associated with improvements for individuals with arthritis. One research study showed that patients with arthritis who practiced Tai Chi:

  • had significant improvement in their ability to reach for things
  • experienced improvements in their arthritis symptoms, with less pain, fatigue, and stiffness
  • felt less dependent/helpless
  • experienced better sleep

Another study on Tai Chi and arthritis found a:

•    34% reduction in pain

•    36% reduction in stiffness

•    32% improvement in physical function

Does Tai Chi reduce fall risk?

In addition to its benefits in reducing the pain and stiffness of arthritis, it can also help to improve balance and reduce risk of falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. It is critical to reduce fall risk to prevent injuries and the need for emergency orthopedic surgery.

Yet another study on Tai Chi and fall prevention compared patients who practiced Tai Chi with those who did not. The results showed the Tai Chi group:

  • had a lower fall rate
  • had reduced risk for multiple falls after participating in Tai Chi
  • performed better on five of six balance test measures

The Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention Program

Dr. Paul Lam, a family physician in Australia, created what is known as Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program. Dr. Lam says that anyone can learn this.

The program is based on a certain style of Tai Chi known as the Sun style. In fact, the CDC recommends this program for fall prevention, and encourages its use. 

Tai Chi for arthritis near you

As a physical therapist, I saw the evidence to support the use of Tai Chi for our patients with arthritis. In January of 2021, I became certified to teach Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention, and have since incorporated it into our rehabilitation program to help improve balance and promote relaxation for our patients.

If you think you could benefit from Tai Chi, contact your doctor to get a referral and come see me at the clinic.

Courtney Klenk, PT

Courtney Klenk, PT, DPT, OCS

Courtney Klenk is an orthopedic board-certified physical therapy specialist in outpatient rehabilitation services at The Miriam Hospital.