Participating in tai chi (TC) leads to significant improvements in physical and mental health among older adults with arthritis, according to a Canadian cohort study. A 16-week intervention was conducted among 102 older adults from low-income neighbourhoods with self-reported arthritis. Participants were encouraged to attend two moderate-intensity TC sessions per week for a total of 120 minutes. Functional fitness assessment results indicated that grip strength, 30-second arm curl, timed up-and-go and 30-second chair stand improved significantly from baseline to 16 weeks. Physical functioning, general health, vitality, and mental health also improved significantly over the intervention period. These improvements in physical health and physical function scores were judged to be clinically meaningful. (Effectiveness of a Tai Chi Intervention for Improving Functional Fitness and General Health Among Ethnically Diverse Older Adults With Self-Reported Arthritis Living in Low-Income Neighborhoods: A Cohort Study. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2014 Apr 23. [Epub ahead of print]).

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Tai chi (TC) has beneficial effects on blood pressure (BP) and levels of gaseous cellular signaling molecules in the blood of patients with essential hypertension (EH). In a Chinese study, 24 EH patients were assigned to a tai chi exercise group (HTC), while another 16 formed the control hypertension group (HP) who received no intervention. Sixteen healthy volunteers matched for age and gender were recruited as controls (NP). The HTC group performed TC for 60 minutes per day, six days per week for 12 weeks. By week 12, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) had decreased significantly in the HTC group. Over the same time period in the HTC group, levels of blood lipids were found to have improved significantly, while plasma levels of the vasoactive gaseous signalling molecules nitric oxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) had increased. Correlations were observed between changes in SBP and MAP and changes in NO, CO and H2S. No changes were observed in the HP and NP groups. (Effects of Tai Chi exercise on blood pressure and plasma levels of nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide in real-world patients with essential hypertension. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2014 Feb 3. [Epub ahead of print]). http: / / / pubmed / 24490621

 Tai chi (TC) training helps improve attention in healthy young adults, according to American researchers. In this non-randomised, controlled, parallel design study, 28 healthy young adult students took part in a 15-week introductory tai chi course, with 44 students acting as non-TC controls. Subjects were tested for ADHD indicators and cognitive function three times over the course of the 15 weeks. The TC students’ self-reports of attention (but not hyperactivity-impulsivity) improved compared to controls. Improvements in self-reported attention correlated with reductions in reaction time variability in an affective go/no-go task for TC students. Affective bias was also found to have changed in the tai chi students, as shown by the fact that their reaction times to positive- and negative-valenced words equalised over time. The authors suggest that TC may have potential as a non-pharmacological intervention for individuals with ADHD. (Tai chi training reduces self-report of inattention in healthy young adults. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Jan 27;8:13). http:/ / / pubmed / 24519923

Research from the USA has found that a 12-week tai chi (TC) intervention was more effective in reducing fall rates for stroke survivors than either strength training or usual care. The study involved 145 community-dwelling survivors of stroke with a mean age of 70 years, who were at least three months post-stroke. They were randomised to three groups. The TC group attended a one-hour Yang style 24-posture class three times per week. The strength training group (SS) performed strength and range of movement exercises with the same duration and frequency. The usual care (UC) group received weekly phone calls. During the intervention, TC participants had two thirds fewer falls (5 falls) than the SS (14 falls) and UC (15 falls) groups. Both the TC and SS groups showed significantly better aerobic endurance over time. (Effect of tai chi on physical function, fall rates and quality of life among older stroke survivors. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 May;95(5):816-24). http: / / / pubmed / 24440643


A Chinese research team has found that tai chi (TC) can improve balance and decrease fall risks in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Seventy-six patients with PD took part in 60 minutes of 24-form Yang style TC three times a week for 12 weeks. The control group received no intervention. The balance of subjects in the TC group was found to improve more than those in the control group. During six-month follow-up, eight (21.6%) patients in the TC group experienced falls, compared to 19 (48.7%) patients in the control group. (Effects of Tai Chi on balance and fall prevention in Parkinson’s disease: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2014 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print]). pubmed /24519923

German researchers have used fMRI scanning to compare needling at a verum acupuncture point to the needling of a sham point. Twenty-one healthy male volunteers were enrolled. Manual acupuncture stimulation of Neiting ST-44 and a sham point on the dorsum of the left foot was applied during fMRI. Stimulation of Neiting ST-44 was associated with increased activation in the primary somatosensory cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, prefrontal cortex and the posterior insula. Sham needling was associated with increased activation in the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula. Verum acupuncture increased the activity of somatosensory and cognitive pain processing areas of the brain, whereas sham needling activated the areas responsible for affective processing of pain. These findings may help explain the beneficial effects of verum acupuncture in clinical studies of patients with chronic pain. (Verum and sham acupuncture exert distinct cerebral activation in pain processing areas: a crossover fMRI investigation in healthy volunteers. Brain Imaging Behay. 2014 Apr 12. [Epub ahead of print]). pubmed / 24728839


Australian researchers have conducted a study exploring the experience of acupuncture for people with chronic low back pain. This qualitative study used in-depth interviews with 11 people who had received acupuncture for chronic low back pain to identify main themes. The results showed that the core theme was ‘Reclaiming Control’, which was related to the sense of well-being experienced by most of the participants as a result of receiving acupuncture. The other themes included ‘Gaining Sanctuary’, ‘Gaining Trust’ and ‘Working Together’, which reflected the experience of the participants entering an aesthetically appealing, calm and relaxing space, developing confidence in the acupuncturists’ ability to care for them, and negotiating strategies and sharing decision-making with acupuncturists about their care. The authors conclude that clinicians providing acupuncture for low back pain may elicit an immediate sense of calmness in patients which has subsequent benefits for the patient’s well­being, and that the sense of calmness may be enhanced by providing a relaxing physical environment. They further note that the interpersonal processes of establishing trust and shared decision-making are important for clients. Shared decision-making can be improved by considering the explanation of issues and plans to the patient, and especially by developing an understanding of each patient’s worldview and using language that the suits each individual’s healthcare orientation. (The experience of acupuncture care from the perspective of people with chronic low back pain: a grounded theory study. Acupunct Med. 2014 May 1. doi: [Epub ahead of print]). http:/ / pubmed / 24785538


A review article by Australian authors has summarised the research evidence relating to the use of acupuncture for treating women’s reproductive disorders. The narrative literature covers both clinical research (assessing 204 documents) and experimental research (114 documents) on acupuncture’s mechanisms of action in relation to women’s health. The authors conclude that there is preliminary data indicating acupuncture may improve women’s menstrual health, as well as their ability to cope with delays in falling pregnant. They report that experimental data also indicate that acupuncture can influence female reproductive functioning, although the actual mechanisms involved have not yet been clarified. (Acupuncture and women’s health: an overview of the role of acupuncture and its clinical management in women’s reproductive health. Int J Womens Health. 2014 Mar 17;6:313-325). http: / / / pubmed /24669195


Current evidence supports the use of acupuncture to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a systematic review of studies of complementary and alternative medicine treatments. American authors reviewed 33 studies (n=1329) that assessed PTSD outcomes after a variety of CAM interventions. Evidence of benefit for PTSD was judged to be good for acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation and visualisation. (Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Systematic Review. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2014 Mar 27. [Epub ahead of print]). http:/ / pubmed / 24676593


Direct moxibustion may be able to improve symptoms of fatigue, according to the results of a small study carried out in the US. Eleven female volunteers aged 25 to 60 years, all of whom were diagnosed with fatigue due to Spleen qi and yang deficiency, had three to five moxa cones burned at 11 acupuncture points once per week for eight weeks. Symptomatic improvement was seen after treatment on the SF-36 Energy/Fatigue Scale, SF-36 Social Function Scale and Flinders Fatigue Scale. Heart rate variability data also showed improvement in three of four participants. (Direct moxibustion to treat spleen qi and yang deficiency fatigue: a pilot study. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2014 Apr;7(2):76-82).

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