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Tai Chi and Arthritis - What You Need to Know

Tai Chi Is Beneficial for Arthritis


Updated March 17, 2013

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine. It is sometimes referred to as moving meditation. When you practice tai chi, you move your body slowly, gently, with awareness, and with deep breathing, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Brief History of Tai Chi

Tai chi began in ancient China and started as a martial art and for the purpose of self-defense. It later became recognized for its health benefits. Tai chi is believed to improve:

  • physical condition
  • muscle strength
  • coordination
  • flexibility
  • balance
  • pain level and stiffness
  • sleep
  • general well-being

As the legend goes, tai chi's origin is credited to Chang San-Feng, a Taoist monk. The monk developed a series of 13 exercises that mimic the movements of animals. Meditation and the concept of internal force were emphasized by the monk.

Tai chi adopted the concepts yin and yang (opposing forces within your body) and qi (vital energy or life force). Tai chi aims to support a balance of yin and yang, ultimately aiding the flow of qi.

There are various movements in tai chi -- and each flows into the next. Posture, movement, concentration, and breathing are essential elements of tai chi.

Study Results Show Tai Chi Benefits Arthritis Patients

According to a study in Arthritis Care & Research, tai chi can be modestly beneficial for people with various forms of arthritis. The study analyzed the results from seven clinical trials (none of which were placebo-controlled). Using tai chi as the main treatment for participants with musculoskeletal pain, study results indicated that tai chi improved pain and disability.

How to Get Started With Tai Chi

Consider working with a qualified tai chi instructor. The instructor can teach you about various movements and guide you to practice tai chi safely. Senior centers, community education centers, YMCA, YWCA, private health clubs, or wellness centers may offer tai chi. Check locally.

The Arthritis Foundation offers a program called "Tai Chi from the Arthritis Foundation." The program aims to improve the quality of life of arthritis patients. The Sun style Tai chi is the focus of the Arthritis Foundation program because it includes movements that are not too difficult for arthritis patients.

More people are using tai chi these days. As a matter of fact, a 2007 survey by NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics revealed adjusted numbers that showed 2.3 million adults had used tai chi in the past 12 months.


Tai Chi: An Introduction [NCCAM Backgrounder]. April 2009.

Tai Chi from the Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation. 6/10/2007.

The Effectiveness of Tai Chi for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Conditions. Arthritis Care and Research. May 28, 2009.

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