HealthDay News – Similar improvements in osteoarthritis (OA) indices were noted in patients with knee OA treated with Tai Chi and with physical therapy, according to a study published  in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This is the first study to directly compare Tai Chi with standard therapy for knee OA. 

Chenchen Wang, MD, from the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, and colleagues compared Tai Chi with standard physical therapy for 204 patients with knee OA in a 52-week trial ( ID NCT01258985). Participants were randomized to Tai Chi (twice per week for 12 weeks) or standard physical therapy (twice per week for six weeks, followed by six weeks of home exercise).

The researchers found that the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osetoarthritis Index score was considerably reduced in both groups at 12 weeks (Tai Chi, 167 points; physical therapy, 143 points); the difference between the groups was not significant. Similar clinically significant improvements were seen in most secondary outcomes for both groups, and the benefits persisted to 52 weeks. 

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Significantly greater improvements were seen in depression and the physical component of quality of life in the Tai Chi group. Across instructors, the benefits of Tai Chi were consistent. There were no serious adverse events.

“Tai Chi produced beneficial effects similar to those of a standard course of physical therapy in the treatment of knee OA,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.


Wang C, Schmid CH, Iversen MD, et al. Comparative Effectiveness of Tai Chi Versus Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 17 May 2016] doi:10.7326/M15-2143