Improving quality of life for people with chronic conditions: the example of t'ai chi and multiple sclerosis

Altern Ther Health Med. 1999 Sep;5(5):70-4.


Context: The greatest needs of people with chronic conditions are long-term care, maximized independence, and improved quality of life. With conventional medicine becoming increasingly expensive, depersonalized, and unable to adequately meet such needs, many with chronic conditions are seeking health promotion strategies to effectively manage their symptoms.

Objective: An 8-week t'ai chi program was conducted to explore psychosocial and physical benefits for those with multiple sclerosis.

Design: Nonrandomized, noncontrolled pilot study.

Setting: American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, San Francisco, Calif.

Patients: 19 patients with multiple sclerosis.

Intervention: T'ai chi.

Main outcome measures: Walking speed (distance = 25 ft), hamstring flexibility, and psychosocial well-being as measured by the Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short-form Health Survey.

Results: Walking speed increased by 21% and hamstring flexibility increased by 28%. Patients experienced improvements in vitality, social functioning, mental health, and ability to carry out physical and emotional roles.

Conclusions: This pilot program was conducted entirely on a volunteer basis and led to the implementation of several additional t'ai chi classes for people with multiple sclerosis across the United States. T'ai chi and other health promotion programs offer help toward achieving the goals of increasing access to services, maximizing independence, and improving quality of life for people with chronic disabling conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Martial Arts*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life*
  • Treatment Outcome