Study Confirms Tai Chi Benefits Include Reduced Neck Pain and Improved Blood Pressure
A new study has found that the traditional Chinese exercise tai chi could be just as effective as conventional exercises in relieving long-term neck pain. Carried out by an international team of researchers, the study looked at 114 participants who had all been suffering from chronic neck pain for three consecutive months.
Published online in the official journal of the American Pain society, The Journal of Pain, results showed that after 12 weeks, the tai chi group reported significantly less pain when compared to the control group, as well as improvements with disabilities, quality of life, and postural control.
Participants were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of either group tai chi classes or conventional exercises (demonstrated in the artistic motion capture video below) with weekly sessions of 75 to 90 minutes. A third group acted as a control. Conventional neck exercises were equally beneficial, with co-author Peter M. Wayne adding that 12 weeks of tai chi was neither superior nor inferior to 12 weeks of the other exercises.
The low-impact mind-body exercise tai chi originated in China and includes a combination of slow physical movements (see above) with breathing, relaxation, and meditation. Although no studies had previously looked at relieving chronic neck pain, research had found that it can have other health benefits. Findings published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggested that tai chi could improve cardiovascular health in those who had suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure, or a stroke. The study showed that tai chi could help to reduce blood pressure and therefore lower the risk of stroke by up to 41% and coronary heart disease by up to 22%. The team also found that tai chi could lower the levels of bad cholesterol, increase the overall quality of life, and reduce depression.
In another study published this year, Taiwanese researchers found tai chi to be effective in reducing the risk of falling in seniors. One of the main causes of injury in older adults, preventing falls is important for seniors, since stopping them can prevent further complications caused by hospitalization or admission to a nursing home.
After comparing tai chi to a physical therapy called “lower extremity training,” or LET, which involves leg-strengthening exercises, researchers from Taipei Medical University found that after six months of sessions, the tai chi group was significantly less likely to experience an injury-causing fall than those in the LET group, with participants also benefiting from an increase in cognitive function.