Managing Arthritis with Tai Chi
With the recent change from winter to spring, temperature fluctuations can be difficult for seniors suffering from arthritis. Researchers believe that weather changes can increase stiffness and swelling in joints. When joints ache from use, it can cause seniors to be sedentary, which is one of the worst things for continuing health and quality of life. And while there are medications that can treat arthritis, or at least lessen the symptoms, many of these have side effects that can make the tradeoff not worth it to many older adults.
Engaging in low impact exercise on a regular basis is a way to minimize symptoms, often suggested by doctors. One activity that fits the bill, enjoyed by seniors around the globe is the traditional Chinese exercise tai chi.
A 2016 study compared physical therapy and tai chi among 200 adults with arthritis. Traditionally, physical therapy is used to treat arthritis. The participants were split into two groups, one doing physical therapy, and the other doing tai chi, over a 12 week trial. At the conclusion, both groups reported an improvement in their pain. However, the tai chi group experienced the most impact, as well as feeling better mentally and physically.
Tai chi consists of gentle, but steady, stretching exercises. The slow, deliberate practice results in greater flexibility, relieving pain and swelling. Joint stiffness can cause seniors to become inactive, which then causes joints to become even stiffer from disuse. These movements also build strength in muscles surrounding joints, helping to take pressure off them.
Tai chi may look like an easy form of exercise to the casual observer, but this is far from the truth. Regular practitioners have good overall strength and stamina, as well as learning breathing techniques that reduce stress and promote calmness.