We appraised eight articles examining the effect of Tai Chi or Yoga on decreasing osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms in older adults. Of these, only two investigated Yoga as an intervention. Due to lack of sufficient research in the literature and the poor methodology of the two studies we assessed, we could not provide a clinical bottom line for the effect of Yoga on OA symptoms. Based on the findings from five studies with good methodology investigating the effect of Tai Chi on OA symptoms, we would recommend Tai Chi (either solely or as a component of a larger arthritis self-management program) for reducing OA pain, increasing self-efficacy to manage pain, and increasing function, compared to “routine orthopedic care”. Evidence from these studies showed that Tai Chi produced both statistically and clinically significant decreases in pain. Tai Chi also increased individuals’ ability to manage OA pain. The Tai Chi intervention period that produced the optimal improvements was two hours of practice per week for 12 weeks (total of 24 hours). A minimum of four hours total Tai Chi practice (over six weeks) was required for gains in the ability to manage pain symptoms and a minimum of 12 hours (over 12 weeks) was required to see gains in function. Only one study reported a fall related injury during home practice. However, it was unclear if the fall was a result of the intervention. Some articles excluded subjects if they used an assistive device (AD) for ambulation. However, we feel it is reasonable to expect that persons who use a single point cane for community ambulation could successfully participate in and benefit from Tai Chi, if properly trained by a skilled practitioner. We feel Tai Chi is a safe and effective treatment for managing OA symptoms when performed with proper body alignment. Once proper technique is established, Tai Chi group classes or home practice can be a cost-effective alternative option for OA management.
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