Can Tai Chi Relieve Arthritis Pain in Seniors?

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tai chi arthritis relief senior adults

Autumn is a season of the year where temperatures can fluctuate widely. As the thermometer rises and falls, so too does the barometric pressure. For older adults who have osteoarthritis, these ups and downs can translate to increased pain and swelling in damaged joints. This can seriously limit a senior's ability to carry on their normal daily routine. .

But research shows an ancient form of exercise called Tai Chi might offer hope to combat arthritis pain in seniors.

Research on Tai Chi and Arthritis Pain in Seniors

Scientists conducted a study of 200 adult participants living with osteoarthritis in their knees. The goal of the project was to determine if Tai Chi offered similar -- or even better -- results than traditional physical therapy for managing arthritis.

Over a 12 week period, participants were split up in to two groups.

  • Traditional Physical Therapy: One group of participants engaged in traditional physical therapy. Their regimens included two 30-minute sessions of one-on-one physical therapy each week for six weeks. That was followed by six weeks of home-based physical therapy that was monitored by staff.
  • The other group engaged in Tai Chi. They attended two 1-hour Tai Chi sessions each week for 12 weeks.

While both groups felt less pain at the end of the study, those who practiced Tai Chi enjoyed even greater health benefits. Most notably, Tai Chi improved participants' mental health and overall quality of life.

How Tai Chi Benefits Arthritis Sufferers

How can this seemingly slow moving form of exercise help people with arthritis manage their pain and symptoms? Like Chair Yoga, another form of exercise that helps older adults improve their overall health, Tai Chi nurtures the body, mind and spirit.

The Tai Chi for Health Institute says among the many benefits people who practice this form of exercise receive are:

  • Greater Muscle Strength: Tai Chi builds muscle mass in the muscles that surround damaged joints. Improved muscle strength helps to relieve some of the pressure on the joint itself. This adds up to reduced swelling and pain.
  • Increased Flexibility: One of the challenges for people with arthritis pain is that it hurts to move damaged joints. But the inactivity that often results leads to stiffer joints which further inhibits mobility. The steady, gentle stretches that make up the practice of Tai Chi help to increase flexibility.
  • Improved Fitness: While Tai Chi looks to be a very mild form of exercise, it actually builds overall strength and fitness while teaching better breathing techniques. Older adults who practice it on a regular basis will find they have more energy and greater stamina. Both can help them stay active and avoid being sedentary. For seniors with arthritis, staying active is the best way to manage pain and symptoms.

Empowering Successful Aging

At Vitality Senior Living, we empower seniors to live well at any age. One way we do that is by helping connect older adults with the resources they need to keep learning. By subscribing to our blog, you will receive the latest news and research on aging well delivered right to your inbox!

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