Tai Chi for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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    Tai Chi History Highlights

    • According to Lawrence Galante, Tai Chi Chuan, "The Supreme Ultimate Fist," was originated as a martial art and self-defense discipline in China. Historical records set reference of Tai Chi on the 17th century A.D. with a man named Chiang Fah (Patience Tai Chi). Centuries later, the practice was diversifying to other styles or forms. Those styles are: the Chen, Yang and Wu. The newest form is the Sun, developed by Sun Lutang at the beginning of the 20th century. This style has influence of several "internal arts" such as Pakua Chan, Hsing I Quan and Xingyiquan.


    • The Merck Manual defines rheumatoid arthritis as an inflammatory disease of the joints. It is characterized by symmetrical pain localized at the wrists and hands, with less involvement of the legs and the knees. The inflammatory changes lead to the destruction of the joint cartilage and impairment the joint function. The disease also has systemic manifestations such as cardiovascular and kidney disease. Usually, the treatment is anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. In severe cases, chemotherapy will be the last choice. Passive and active exercises play an important role in its treatment.


    • Tai Chi has been under the public eye for its possible applications to health issues. The Harvard Magazine Online in its February/March 2010 edition published a related article. Other studies about Tai Chi show its possible applications on balance improvement such as the one by Wolf in 1996. In addition, Lee, Heah Young and Lee, Keum Jae published the benefits of the Sun Style patients with knee osteoarthritis and demonstrated improvement in pain, stiffness, balance and knee motion in their 2008 study. Up to this point, research has demonstrated that Tai Chi has benefits for osteoarthritis and elderly persons.

    Research on Rheumatoid Arthritis

    • The findings in rheumatoid arthritis are not conclusive. The pilot study performed by C. Wang and a group of researchers in 2005 and published in RheumatologyOxfordJournals.org found that "...Tai Chi is a safe and potentially promising complementary therapy for adults with functional class I or II Rheumatoid Arthritis." However, the main critic to the limited research studies available is the methodology used. In research literature review performed by M.S. Lee, M.H. Pittler and E. Ernst, they found the following: "The methodological quality of the included RCTs (Research Clinical Trials-acronym explanation added by the writer) was low. None of the included RCTs reported details on randomization, blinding and allocation."


    • Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that requires a broad spectrum of treatment. Joint mobilization through non-extraneous exercise is part of it. Although research does not demonstrate conclusive evidence, Tai Chi may be considered an alternative. However, as any form of exercise it is recommended that should be performed under the close supervision of a health care provider.

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