A research team from the American National Institutes of Health has concluded that tai chi produces beneficial effects similar to those of a standard course of physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis. The team randomly assigned 204 participants with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis to tai chi training (two one-hour sessions each week for 12 weeks) or standard one-on-one physical therapy (two 30-minute sessions per week for six weeks, followed by six weeks of home-based exercises). Both groups were then encouraged to continue their tai chi practice or home exercise for a total of 52 weeks. Patients in both groups reported a decrease in pain levels at 12 weeks. The amount of change in pain between baseline and 12 weeks did not differ between the groups. Patients in both groups showed a similar improvement in physical functioning. Those in the tai chi group showed more improvement in their depression symptoms and quality of life than those in the physical therapy group.
Comparative Effectiveness of Tai Chi Versus Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Jul 19;165(2):77-86.