12 Dec 2017

Quick Guide to Tai Chi for Osteoarthritis Sufferers

Quick Guide to Tai Chi for Osteoarthritis Sufferers

Tai Chi can be a beneficial exercise for you if you have osteoarthritis. Social, easy to learn, and low impact on the joints, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise suitable for people of any age. For those with osteoarthritis, it can be a way to stay active, work your muscles, and loosen painful joints. Before you get started exploring Tai Chi, you’ll want to learn more about this ancient Chinese exercise and how it could support better health and quality-of-life outcomes.

What’s Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a martial art that originated in China thousands of years ago. Also known as Tai Chi Chuan or Taiji, this mind-body exercise combines deep breathing, and slow and gentle movements for proven health benefits. This ‘ moving meditation’ combines slow, continuous whole-body movements to create forms, which are the individual Tai Chi exercises.

The goal is well-being through mind-body integration, controlled breathing, and mental concentration. According to Tai Chi philosophy, when the life force or qi moves smoothly throughout the body, harmony between the mind and body is achieved. With its simple movements, Tai Chi is easy to learn and can be done in any quiet spot, without the need for special equipment or clothing.

Health benefits of Tai Chi

Tai Chi could offer numerous health benefits, especially for osteoarthritis sufferers.

  • Pain – Pain is top of mind for people with osteoarthritis, so it’s beneficial to know Tai Chi has been linked to reduced pain for osteoarthritis sufferers.
  • Relaxation and destressing – With its focus on slow movements and forms and deep breathing, Tai Chi could alleviate stress and anxiety to help you achieve greater relaxation.
  • Low-impact exercise – As a low-impact exercise, Tai Chi could help osteoarthritis sufferers stay active and mobile without painful impact on their joints.
  • Strength – The slow movements of Tai Chi could help you build strength by encouraging you to use your muscles.
  • Coordination – Tai Chi’s specific movements can help you achieve better coordination in your movements.
  • Flexibility and range of movement – Flexibility can be an issue for people experiencing osteoarthritis, but Tai Chi’s gentle stretches could offer an effective way to improve flexibility.
  • Circulation – Getting more active could help you improve your blood circulation, which could support better joint health.
  • Balance and lower risk of falls – Falls can be more common in people with joint problems because of poor balance. Tai Chi can be used to strengthen muscles and so it could help you achieve better balance on your legs, and in turn lower the risk of falls.
  • Pain and stiffness – The gentle movements of Tai Chi encourage you to stretch and use muscles and joints with minimal strain. This can alleviate or reduce pain and stiffness for osteoarthritis sufferers.
  • Choice in level of exertion – Tai Chi can be particularly beneficial as an exercise for those with osteoarthritis because you have discretion in the level of exertion. If you’d like to slow down, you can proceed at your own pace.
  • Falls – Tai Chi has been associated with an almost 70% reduction in recurrence of falls.
  • Pain relief – Research links Tai Chi to pain relief, along with reduced stiffness and improved ability to manage everyday living.
  • Sleep – By promoting relaxation, Tai Chi could encourage better sleep quality, which in turn can boost well-being.
  • General well-being and quality of life– Tai Chi could be linked to general well-being and improved psychosocial function. It could contribute to a reduction in the risk of conditions such as low bone density, breast cancer, heart disease or failure, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Improvements in overall quality of life has been linked to the practice of Tai Chi by people with arthritis.
  • Overall physical function – Research suggests people with chronic osteoarthritis can lead to higher functional fitness and improvements in physical function, as well as pain relief, with Tai Chi.

Practicing Tai Chi as an osteoarthritis sufferer

Always check with your doctor before you start on any new form of exercise, including Tai Chi. If you haven’t done Tai Chi before, it’s best to join a class or a group led by an experienced instructor who can guide you through the movements. A session of Tai Chi could involve warm-up movements like shoulder circles, rocking back and forth, and turning the head to loosen the neck muscles. You might be guided on short forms of movements and to try out some long forms of movements. If you’re a beginner, your instructor might recommend you start with only the short forms of movements.

While you do the movements, you’ll be asked to breath normally along with the physical activity, and this is designed to help relax both mind and body. Since Tai Chi is easy to learn, you could master movements within a matter of days or weeks.

If you’re an osteoarthritis sufferer with painful joints and restricted range of movement, Tai Chi offers an excellent option for staying active and reaping significant health benefits. Check with your doctor before you embark on any new forms of exercise, and make sure you find a qualified, experienced Tai Chi instructor who’s aware of the needs of osteoarthritis sufferers. By staying active and flexible through Tai Chi, you could enjoy a good level of mobility and quality of life.

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