Afflicting one-third of Americans, osteoarthritis often occurs as aging cartilage wears down, causing swelling and pain as bone rubs against bone. As a result, sufferers often become more sedentary, depriving them of the many benefits of physical activity, including weight control, stress management, and longevity. Fortunately, new research suggests the ancient practice of Tai Chi may help decrease joint pain, while also improving quality of life.

A Canadian analysis published in Osteoarthritis Cartilage reviewed an earlier Chinese study comparing symptoms among 40 arthritic seniors (both genders, average age 65), some of whom practiced an hour of Tai Chi twice a week for 12 weeks, while the others were simply instructed to stretch on their own. As dramatically represented in the chart below, the Tai Chi practitioners enjoyed almost immediate relief, with pain symptoms continuing to decline steadily, resulting in a whopping 73% drop in discomfort by the end of the study. Indeed, Tai Chi results were 47% better on average than the stretching group from weeks 3 to 12.


Other research has found that Tai Chi practice improves range of motion, balance, and even sleep quality. For those afflicted with joint pain specifically, other dietary and lifestyle measures may improve symptoms. For example, a mere 10-pound weight loss can reduce knee stress by 40 to 80 pounds. Produce consumption not only helps with weight loss, high fruit intake has been linked to a lower risk of joint and bone problems. To learn more, watch our Joint Health video.

 Published August 1, 2011