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Tai Chi Improves Physical Function in Older Chinese Women With Knee Osteoarthritis

Ni, Guo-Xin MD, PhD*; Song, Lin MD; Yu, Bin MD, PhD*; Huang, Cai-Hua MS; Lin, Jian-Hua MD§

JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology: March 2010 - Volume 16 - Issue 2 - p 64-67
doi: 10.1097/RHU.0b013e3181cf344f
Original Article

Background: Tai chi (TC) is proposed as a potential option for the management of osteoarthritis (OA), however, its beneficial effect on patients with knee OA has not been convincing.

Objectives: To evaluate the effect of a 24-week TC program on physical functions in older Chinese women with knee OA.

Methods: Thirty-five older Chinese women with knee OA were randomized into TC group (n = 18) and attention control (wellness education and stretching) group (n = 17). Subjects in the TC group practiced the 24-form simplified Yang-style TC 2 to 4 times a week for 24 weeks with frequency gradually increased. Physical function was assessed using the Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), 6-minute walk distance and stair climb time.

Results: Compared with the control group, the participants in TC group had statistically significant improvements in changes of the WOMAC total score (6.18 ± 2.13 vs. 1.71 ± 2.73, P = 0.000), the WOMAC pain subscale (1.36 ± 0.22 vs. 0.07 ± 1.00, P = 0.001), the WOMAC stiffness subscale (0.66 ± 0.25 vs. 0.05 ± 0.38, P = 0.043), the WOMAC function subscale (6.17 ± 1.96 vs. 1.72 ± 2.63, P = 0.000), the 6-minute walk distance (32.43 ± 14.20 vs. 6.67 ± 16.76, P = 0.003), and the stair climb time (2.27 ± 0.74 vs. 0.27 ± 1.24, P = 0.001).

Conclusions: This study suggests that TC provides a safe, feasible and useful exercise option for older Chinese female patients with knee OA.

In this population, completers in a 24-week tai chi exercise program did significantly better than a sedentary control group.

From the *Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Nanfang Hospital, Nanfang Medical University, Guangzhou, China; †Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, No. 2 Hospital, Fuzhou, China; ‡Department of Physical Education, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, China; §Department of Orthopeadic Surgery, Affiliated No. 1 Hospital, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, China.

Correspondence: Guo-Xin Ni, MD, PhD, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Nanfang Hospital, Nanfang Medical University, Guangzhou, 510515, China. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.