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Tai Chi May Be Modestly Effective for Arthritis Patients

Meta-analysis shows small effect on pain and disability, but calls data sparse and low-quality

FRIDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with arthritis, Tai Chi appears to be modestly effective at reducing pain and tension and improving disability, physical performance, and quality of life; but in people with other types of musculoskeletal pain, its effects are unclear, according to a study published in the June 15 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis Care & Research).

Amanda Hall, of the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials involving 321 patients, including six studies of patients with chronic arthritis and one study of patients with chronic tension headaches.

The researchers characterized most of the trials as small and low-quality. After analyzing the arthritis studies, they found that Tai Chi had small pooled effect sizes for reducing pain and disability on a 0 to 100 scale (10.1 points for pain and 9.6 points for disability). After analyzing physical performance and health related quality of life outcomes, they also found that Tai Chi had a small positive effect, which was statistically significant only for reducing tension and improving satisfaction with general health.

"These data suggest that Tai Chi has a small positive effect on pain and disability in people with arthritis. The extent to which it benefits other forms of musculoskeletal pain is unclear," the authors write.

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