Wave hands like clouds. Repulse monkey left and right. White crane spreads its wings. If these phrases sound familiar to you, then you’re probably a practitioner of tai chi. And if you’re not, maybe you should be — especially if you suffer from knee arthritis.
Most people think of tai chi as a mindfulness exercise, and it’s true — this martial art form can help reduce stress and anxiety when practiced on a regular basis. But it’s also good for your joints, providing a low-impact type of exercise that gets your blood flowing, improves balance, and enhances flexibility and strength. More recently, researchers have evaluated tai chi as a therapy for knee arthritis. What they’ve found is really good news for anyone with sore, stiff knee joints.
Tai Chi Benefits for Knee Pain
During their study, researchers looked at 204 patients with knee arthritis that had been documented by X-rays. All patients also reported knee pain related to their arthritis. The researchers divided the patients into two groups. One group practiced tai chi for their pain, while the other had regular physical therapy. Both interventions were practiced twice a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers used a score or index to measure the effectiveness of each approach. They found both therapies worked well to reduce pain and stiffness, but tai chi patients had higher scores overall. And that’s not all. The tai chi group also had significant improvements in their quality of life, along with reduced depression. Since depression is a common “side effect” of pain and immobility, that’s an important bonus. Those benefits were the same regardless of the instructor that was used.
Even though tai chi is a martial art, it’s very gentle on the joints. Plus, the concentration that’s used when practicing induces deep relaxation and reduces stress. Tai chi movements are also very simple, making it a good option even for the most uncoordinated men and women. It’s also a great choice for people of all ages, including seniors.
Using Tai Chi for Arthritis
Knee Pain: What You Can Do
Tai chi is a popular form of “relaxed” exercise. In fact, it’s often referred to as meditation in motion. Many health clubs, community centers, gyms and even some hospitals offer classes in tai chi. Searching for tai chi classes using your zip code is a good way to find a class near you. If you belong to a health club or gym, that’s also a great place to start. Really busy schedule? YouTube is full of videos on basic and advanced tai chi, including entire routines you can do at home. You can even find videos specifically focused on tai chi for knee pain. The one drawback for using YouTube: Since tai chi is usually practiced in a group, you’ll miss out on some of the social benefits.
Could tai chi help your knee pain?
Low impact, easy to learn, no athletic ability required — plus, tai chi reduces pain, improves balance and lowers stress levels. What’s not to love? But before you start practicing tai chi for knee pain, it’s a good idea to have a medical exam first to make sure tai chi is a good (and safe) choice for you. Even though arthritis is a common reason for knee pain, it’s not the only cause. Scheduling a visit with Dr. Van Thiel is an important step in making sure you’re getting the right kind of care for optimal results.
Knee pain is one of the most common types of joint pain and one of the most common causes of pain as we get older. To find out how to manage your painful symptoms and enjoy healthier joints too, contact the office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Van Thiel today.