More positive taichi and qigong reserach

Taichi is the subject of frequent research nowadays ... qigong less so, although the practices often overlap so closely that the findings will generally apply equally to both ... you commonly get these fashions in research. A batch of studies has been published recently. Read on to see how taichi is the best training for reducing the risk of falling in older people, that it benefits acute and chronic pain and our reaction to it, and that it increases our neurophysical functioning (brain-body connection) and heart health .

Tai chi better than conventional training for preventing falls

Tai chi may reduce the incidence of falls more than conventional lower extremity training (LET) in the elderly, and its effects can last for at least one year. Taiwanese researchers assigned 456 older adults with a history of falling to a tai chi group (one weekly hour-long class) or a LET class (stretching, muscle strengthening and balance training) for a six-month period. The tai chi group was significantly less likely than the LET group to experience any falls during the six-month intervention and the effects remained significant after 12 months of follow-up. Participants who independently practised tai chi or LET seven times per week or more were significantly less likely to experience injurious falls than their counterparts during the intervention and follow up. Cognitive function also improved to a greater extent in the tai chi group than in the LET group over the 18-month study period.

Effects of Home-Based Tai Chi and Lower Extremity Training and Self-Practice on Falls and Functional Outcomes in Older Fallers from the Emergency Department-A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Mar;64(3):518-25.

Tai chi helps by reducing pain-catastrophising

A study of tai chi for reducing pain-related symptoms in musculoskeletal conditions provides initial evidence that its benefits may partly be due to its effect on cognitive appraisal outcomes such as pain-catastrophising (the tendency to have a negative cognitive-affective response to anticipated or actual pain). Australian clinicians randomised 102 adults with persistent low back pain to either a 10-week tai chi intervention (two 40 minute classes per week for the first eight weeks, and one 40 minute class for the last two weeks), or a wait-list control. The findings indicated that a reduction in catastrophising explained approximately one third of the effect of tai chi on pain intensity and bothersomeness, and two thirds of the effect of tai chi on pain-related disability.

Does pain-catastrophising mediate the effect of tai chi on treatment outcomes for people with low back pain? Complement Ther Med. 2016 Apr;25:61-6.

Tai chi improves sensorimotor processing

Tai chi elicits changes in neurophysiological function from very early in the learning process and may exert some of its beneficial effects via improvement of sensorimotor processing and better integration of body awareness. American scientists carried out two studies evaluating the effect of tai chi on measures associated with sensorimotor processing. The first study evaluated tai chi’s effects on a parameter associated with motor function (beta rhythm intermuscular coherence [IMC]). The authors utilised electromyography (EMG) to compare beta IMC in older tai chi practitioners with age-matched controls, as well as novice with advanced tai chi practitioners. They discovered that novice practitioners manifested higher beta IMC than both controls and advanced practitioners, forming an inverted U-shaped practice curve. Their findings suggest that tai chi practice elicits complex changes in sensory and motor processes over the lifespan of tai chi training. In the second study they focused on somatosensory (tactile and proprioceptive) responses to the rubber hand illusion (RHI - designed to test multi-sensory integration) in a middle-aged tai chi group, assessing whether responses to the illusion became dampened with greater cumulative practice. They found that with increasing experience, tai chi practitioners were less likely to misattribute a touch on their hand during the RHI to the fake rubber hand. The authors suggest that their results help explain the widespread sensorimotor benefits observed with tai chi practice in symptoms associated with aging and difficult illnesses such as Parkinson's disease.

The Effects of Tai Chi Practice on Intermuscular Beta Coherence and the Rubber Hand Illusion. Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Feb 16;10:37.

Tai chi offers significant benefits in cardiovascular disease

A meta-analysis published by Chinese authors suggests that tai chi and qigong can offer significant, wide-ranging benefits for people with cardiovascular disease. A total of 35 articles with 2249 cardiovascular disease patients satisfied their inclusion criteria. The analysis of pooled data found that tai chi could improve blood pressure enough to reduce stroke risk by up to 41% and coronary heart disease risk by 22%. Patients performing tai chi also experienced benefits in terms of triglyceride levels, physical functioning and depression, compared with controls.

Traditional Chinese Exercise for Cardiovascular Diseases: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Mar 9;4(3):e002562.

Tai chi good for chronic pain

Tai chi should be considered as a viable therapy for chronic pain conditions, according to an international team of authors. Data from 18 randomised controlled trials (1260 individuals) were included in their systematic review. The aggregated results indicated that practising tai chi led to immediate relief of chronic pain from osteoarthritis, low back pain and osteoporosis. Their results also indicated that a minimum duration of tai chi practice for chronic pain relief should be six weeks, with longer duration achieving better gains.

Tai Chi for Chronic Pain Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 29;6:25325.


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