Arthritis and Tai Chi

One treatment option for osteoarthritis (OA) that many people would never even think to consider is Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial arts form of meditation with a constant flow of energy and movement.

A recent meta-analysis compared the results of various randomized controlled trials on Tai Chi for osteoarthritis. Overall, some of the studies have found positive results on pain reduction and physical function. There also have been some conflicting results on its efficacy for OA.

However, since Tai Chi may have many other potential benefits and poses no serious risk, it may be an option for people with OA to consider. It’s estimated that over 200 million people practice Tai Chi everyday.

“Two RCTs suggested significant pain reduction on visual analog scale or Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) compared to routine treatment and an attention control program in knee OA.” (Lee et al, 2007)

“…  there is some encouraging evidence suggesting that tai chi may be effective for pain control in patients with knee arthritis (OA). However, the evidence is not convincing for pain reduction or improvement of physical function. Future RCTs should assess larger patient samples for longer treatment periods and use appropriate controls” (Lee et al, 2007).

Bottom line:  At this point in time, there’s at least some evidence that Tai Chi is effective for treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Specifically, it may be effective at helping with pain control. Evaluating alternative treatments with conventional scientific studies is often like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  


  1. Lee MS, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Tai chi for osteoarthritis: a systematic review.Clin Rheumatol. 2007 Sep 14;

Written by 

Dr. Jarret Morrow, MD CCFP, is a licensed family physician currently practising in Edmonton, AB. He has a declared special interest in cosmetic dermatology.

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2 Thoughts to “Tai Chi for Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review”

  1. Steven Smith

    Jumping up and down, pounding one’s bones into the ground is better for osteoarthritis. Slow movement just gets one ready for it.

  2. Jarret Morrow

    Steven, interesting comment. I am not quite sure that I agree with you on this. Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts.



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