A new study has found that the traditional Chinese exercise tai chi could be just as effective as conventional exercises in relieving long-term neck pain.
Carried out by an international team of researchers, the study looked at 114 participants who had all been suffering from chronic neck pain for three consecutive months.
To look at whether tai chi would be more effective than no treatment at all, or more and less effective than conventional neck exercises, participants were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of either group tai chi classes or conventional exercises with weekly sessions of 75 to 90 minutes. A third group acted as a control.
Published online in the official journal of the American Pain society, The Journal of Pain, results showed that after 12 weeks, the tai chi group reported significantly less pain when compared to the control group, as well as improvements in disability, quality of life and postural control.
However conventional neck exercises were equally beneficial, with co-author Peter M. Wayne adding that 12 weeks of tai chi was neither superior nor inferior to 12 weeks of the other exercises.
The low-impact mind-body exercise tai chi originated in China and includes a combination of slow physical movements with breathing, relaxation and meditation. Although no studies have previously looked at relieving chronic neck pain, previous research has found that it can have other beneficial effects of health.
Tai chi - effects on balance and the heart
Findings published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggested that tai chi could improve cardiovascular health in those who had suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke. The study showed that tai chi could help to reduce blood pressure and therefore lower the risk of stroke by up to 41% and coronary heart disease by up to 22%. The team also found that tai chi could reduce the levels of bad cholesterol, increase in overall quality of life and reduced levels of depression.
In another study published this year Taiwanese researchers found tai chi to be effective in reducing the risk of falls in seniors. One of the main causes of injury in older adults, fall prevention is an important issue for seniors as it can also prevent further health problems, as well as hospitalization, nursing home admission, and even death.
After comparing tai chi to a physical therapy called “lower extremity training,” or LET, which involves leg-strengthening exercises, researchers from Taipei Medical University found that after six months of sessions, the tai chi group was significantly less likely to experience an injury-causing fall than those in the LET group, with participants also benefiting from an increase in cognitive function.