For people with arthritis, tai chi practice may provide modest improvements in pain and disability, according to a research review of randomized controlled studies published in Arthritis Care & Research (2009; 61 , 717–24). Investigators from the University of Sydney, Australia, sought to determine how effective tai chi is in decreasing pain and disability and improving quality of life in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Owing to the low methodological quality of most studies, only seven studies were selected for analysis.
Researchers concluded that tai chi appears to have a small positive effect on pain and disability in people with arthritis, but could not form conclusions about the benefits for those with other types of musculoskeletal pain. The studies featured three different types of tai chi practice: Yang, Sun and Wu; researchers, however, did not think that differences in tai chi style impacted differences in effect size between trials. The review authors recommended that future studies use a higher-quality methodology and larger sample sizes to estimate the effects of tai chi practice more accurately.
The Arthritis Foundation in the United States recommends Sun-style tai chi as a means of managing osteoarthritis. For more information, go to www.arthritis.org.