Tai chi Safe and Effective for People with Persistent Low Back Pain
October 29, 2011 -
This study is a joint effort of the George Institute for Global Health and
University of Sydney. It is published in the November 2011 issue of Arthritis
To determine the effect of tai chi exercise on persistent
low back pain.
We performed a randomized controlled trial in a general community setting in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Participants consisted of 160 volunteers between ages 18 and 70 years with
persistent nonspecific low back pain. The tai chi
group (n = 80) consisted of 18 40-minute sessions over a 10-week period
delivered in a group format by a qualified instructor. The waitlist control
group continued with their usual health care. Bothersomeness of back symptoms
was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included pain intensity and
pain-related disability. Data were collected at pre- and post-intervention and
analyzed by intent-to-treat.
Tai chi exercise reduced
bothersomeness of back symptoms by 1.7 points on a 0-10 scale, reduced pain
intensity by 1.3 points on a 0-10 scale, and improved self-report disability by
2.6 points on the 0-24 Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire scale. The
follow-up rate was >90% for all outcomes. These results were considered a
worthwhile treatment effect by researchers and participants.
CONCLUSION: This is the first pragmatic
randomized controlled trial of tai chi exercise
for people with low back pain. It showed that a 10-week
tai chi program improved pain and disability outcomes and can be
considered a safe and effective intervention for those experiencing long-term
low back pain symptoms.