Two New Studies Show Tai Chi Benefit Patients with Parkinson's Disease
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December 2, 2013 -
Two newly release scientific
studies reported benefits from Tai Chi to patients with Parkinson's Disease from
One of the studies was performed jointly by VA
Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence and Department of Neurology, Emory
University. Their pilot investigation was to determine the effects of Tai
Chi exercise on the non-motor symptomology in Parkinson's disease. A substantial
number of individuals with Parkinson's disease exhibit debilitating non-motor
symptoms that decrease quality of life. To date, few treatment options exist for
the non-motor symptomatology related to Parkinson's disease.
In that study, 15 individuals with Parkinson's disease
were enrolled in a Tai Chi intervention and 6 in the noncontact control group.
Participants assigned to Tai Chi participated in 60-minute Tai Chi sessions
three times per week, for 16 weeks. Pre and post measures included indices of
cognitive-executive function including visuomotor tracking and attention,
selective attention, working memory, inhibition, processing speed and task
switching. Additionally, all participants were evaluated on the Parkinson's
disease Questionnaire-39 and Tinetti's Falls Efficacy Scale.
Their results indicated that the Tai Chi training group
had significantly better scores following the intervention than the control
group on the Parkinson's disease Questionnaire-39 total score as well as the
emotional well-being sub score. Trends for improvement were noted for the Tai
Chi group on Digits Backwards, Tinetti's Falls Efficacy Scale, and the
activities of daily living and communication sub scores of the Parkinson's
This research provides initial
data that supports future studies to definitively establish efficacy of Tai
Chi to improve non-motor features of Parkinson's disease. Its findings are
published in the Journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy.
Another new study, done by Dong-A University School of
Medicine of Korea, aimed at comparing Tai Chi and combined
stretching-strengthening exercise for patients with Parkinson's disease (PD).
Patients with mild-to-moderate PD
were recruited to join either the combined stretching-strengthening exercise
group (7 of them), the Tai Chi group (9 of them), or the control
(nonintervention) group (7 of them). Exercise was performed three times a week
over a period of 8 weeks. The Tai Chi exercise was led by certified instructors
based on a Tai-Chi-for-arthritis program. The combined stretching-strengthening
exercise comprised folk dancing, stepping, and elastic-band exercises. The
subjects' functional fitness, parkinsonian symptoms, quality of life (QoL), and
depression were evaluated.
Both exercise groups yielded better results in their
overall functional fitness after the intervention. However, no improvement with
exercise was found for parkinsonian symptoms, as evaluated using the Unified
Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale. With respect to the domains of QoL, the
combined stretching-strengthening exercise group fared better in the social
domain of QoL, and the Tai Chi group fared better in the emotional domain, while
QoL and depression worsened in the control group. The post-intervention QoL was
improved relative to the control condition only for the Tai Chi group. Although
the exercise interventions did not have any effect on depression, the control
group was associated with a significant deterioration.
The results from this study shows
that exercise improved the functional fitness and QoL of PD patients, with Tai
Chi yielding better results in QoL and favorable results in functional fitness.
These findings suggest that Tai Chi could be a good exercise strategy for
patients with PD.
This study is published by Journal of Clinical Neurology.