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Tai Chi for Chronic Pain Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 25325.
Published online 2016 Apr 29. doi:  [10.1038/srep25325]
PMCID: PMC4850460
PMID: 27125299
Tai Chi for Chronic Pain Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Ling Jun Kong,1 Romy Lauche,2 Petra Klose,3 Jiang Hui Bu,1 Xiao Cun Yang,1 Chao Qing Guo,1 Gustav Dobos,3,* and Ying Wu Chenga,1,*

Several studies reported that Tai Chi showed potential effects for chronic pain, but its role remains controversial. This review assessed the evidence regarding the effects of Tai Chi for chronic pain conditions. 18 randomized controlled trials were included in our review.

The aggregated results have indicated that Tai Chi showed positive evidence on immediate relief of chronic pain from osteoarthritis (standardized mean difference [SMD], −0.54; 95% confidence intervals [CI], −0.77 to −0.30; P < 0.05). The valid duration of Tai Chi practice for osteoarthritis may be more than 5 weeks. And there were some beneficial evidences regarding the effects of Tai Chi on immediate relief of chronic pain from low back pain (SMD, −0.81; 95% CI, −1.11 to −0.52; P < 0.05) and osteoporosis (SMD, −0.83; 95% CI, −1.37 to −0.28; P = 0.003). Therefore, clinicians may consider Tai Chi as a viable complementary and alternative medicine for chronic pain conditions.

Chronic and recurrent pain, which can be persistent and prevalent, is a common health problem and a major cause of high economic costs in relation to health expenses and job absenteeism1,2,3. Chronic pain typically presents obvious physical and psychological damage for pain sufferers. Physically, chronic pain may decrease the pain threshold making sufferers sensitive to subliminal stimuli, and resulting in symptomatic responses including hypertension, insomnia, and astrointestinal ulceration4. Psychologically, chronic pain may cause, for example, emotional disturbances, depression, and social withdrawal5. Common causes of chronic pain include osteoarthritis (OA), low back pain (LBP), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and fibromyalgia. In addition to regular treatments (such as medicine and surgery), complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has an increasingly important role in ameliorating chronic pain6.

Tai Chi, a mind-body exercise therapy, is typically used to manage chronic pain conditions. During Tai Chi exercises, the slow motion and weight shifting may improve musculoskeletal strength and joint stability. Concentration and mindfulness meditation may modulate multiple aspects of health including mood, functions of the immune and autonomic nervous systems7,8. Several trials have documented that Tai Chi demonstrated positive effects on chronic pain9,10,11,12, and some reviews have maintained that Tai Chi showed some beneficial effects on chronic pain13,14,15,16,17. However, the majority of the studies either paid attention to only one disease14,15,16,18, or were only qualitative analyses16,17. Furthermore, the majority of the reviews did not include Chinese clinical studies of Tai Chi for chronic pain due to the language barrier or limited resources for information retrieval13,15,17.

Therefore, the objective of this systematic review was to assess the evidence regarding the effectiveness of Tai Chi in decreasing pain in patients with chronic pain conditions to determine whether Tai Chi is a viable CAM for chronic pain conditions

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Tai Chi