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Tai Chi and Chronic Pain

Peng, Philip W.H. MBBS, FRCPC

Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine: July/August 2012 - Volume 37 - Issue 4 - p 372–382
doi: 10.1097/AAP.0b013e31824f6629

In the last 2 decades, a growing body of research aimed at investigating the health benefits of Tai Chi in various chronic health conditions has been recognized in the literature. This article reviewed the history, the philosophy, and the evidence for the role of Tai Chi in a few selected chronic pain conditions. The ancient health art of Tai Chi contributes to chronic pain management in 3 major areas: adaptive exercise, mind-body interaction, and meditation. Trials examining the health benefit of Tai Chi in chronic pain conditions are mostly low quality. Only 5 pain conditions were reviewed: osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, low back pain, and headache. Of these, Tai Chi seems to be an effective intervention in osteoarthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia. The limitations of the Tai Chi study design and suggestions for the direction of future research are also discussed.

From the Department of Anesthesia, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto; and Wasser Pain Management Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada.

Accepted for publication February 7, 2012.

Address correspondence to: Philip W.H. Peng, MBBS, FRCPC, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, McL 2-405 TWH, 399 Bathurst St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2S8 (e-mail:

The preparation of the article is solely from the institutional support for Dr. Peng. The author declares no conflict of interest, except that Dr. Peng has been a Tai Chi practitioner for 30 years and is one of the organizers of a Tai Chi class at his institution.

©2012 American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine