June 4, 2009 -- Practicing the traditional Chinese martial art tai chi may reduce arthritis pain and disability.
That's according to a new research review, published in the June 15 edition of Arthritis Care & Research.
The reviewers pooled data from seven studies. Five of the studies included people with osteoarthritis, a sixth study focused on people with rheumatoid arthritis, and the seventh study included people with chronic tension headaches.
Besides their usual medical care, some patients took weekly tai chi classes. For comparison, other patients didn't get tai chi instruction.
The studies varied in the type of tai chi that was taught and the tai chi class schedule. Classes lasted for six to 15 weeks and involved one to three weekly classes, depending on the study.
The review shows a drop of 10 points, on a scale of 0-100 points, in the self-reported pain and disability scores of arthritis patients after taking tai chi. Those patients also reported less tension and more satisfaction with their health, compared to patients who didn't take tai chi.
That amounts to a "small positive effect," write the reviewers, who included Amanda Hall, MPE, of Australia's University of Sydney. Hall's team notes that the quality of the tai chi studies was "low" and that they didn't have enough data to draw conclusions about tai chi's effect on other types of pain.