According to research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, both Tai Chi and physical therapy positively impact pain, function and other symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and, therefore both are viable treatment alternatives to the degenerative disease. Osteoarthrosis is a progressive disease in a person’s joints, where the cartilage at the ends of bones normally allows for fluid, pain-free movement. When OA is present, the cartilage becomes thin and irregular, resulting in pain and stiffness.

According to the researchers, the hips, knees, hands and spine are commonly affected. OA becomes more common with aging.

Researchers already know that Tai Chi is a helpful treatment of OA, but this study was conducted to see how it stacked up against physical therapy, a highly-regarded treatment of knee osteoarthritis. The researchers selected 203 participants where the average age was 60 and the individuals had been suffering from OA for at least eight years and were predominantly white women. They placed the participants in two groups. The first group of 106 completed 12 weeks of classical Yang style Tai Chi twice a week, while the second of 98 completed physical therapy twice a week for six weeks and then were monitored as they followed six weeks of at home physical therapy exercises.

The researchers found a slight improvement in the Tai Chi group over the physical therapy group, but also saw significant improvement in depression in the same group.

For more information, read the full study.

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