Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tai Chi May Offer Benefits for Chronic Pain

Briefly Noted Tai Chi, a low-impact martial art, has been associated with significant improvements in balance, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular and respiratory function, as well as pain reduction and improved quality of life. Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, conducted a systematic review demonstrating that Tai Chi also benefits psychological health.

A search of English and Chinese databases through March 2009 revealed 40 high-quality studies, encompassing 3,817 subjects (including both community-dwelling healthy participants and patients with chronic conditions) and assessing 29 psychological measurements [Wang et al. 2010]. Twenty-three of 33 clinical trials reported that 1 hour to 1 year of regular Tai Chi increased psychological well-being, including statistically significant reductions of stress, anxiety, and depression, plus enhancements of mood and emotion. Seven observational studies with relatively large sample sizes further reinforced the beneficial association between Tai Chi practice and psychological health.

COMMENT: Definitive conclusions were limited due to variations in study designs and group comparisons, heterogeneous outcomes, and inadequate controls. Therefore, high-quality, well-controlled, and longer-term randomized trials would be helpful to better inform clinical decisions. Overall, however, Tai Chi appears to be associated with improvements in psychological well-being that could be important for persons with chronic pain conditions. This also is an area ripe for brain imaging studies to determine if the psychological improvements due to Tai Chi correspond with an amelioration of detrimental changes in brain structure and function in persons with chronic pain conditions.

REFERENCE: Wang C, Bannuru R, Ramel J, et al. Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Compl Alt Med. 2010 (May 21);10(23) [article here].