Efficacy of Tai Chi on pain, stiffness and function in patients with osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 19;8(4):e61672. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061672. Print 2013.


Background: Whether Tai Chi benefits patients with osteoarthritis remains controversial. We performed a meta-analysis to assess the effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise for pain, stiffness, and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis.

Methods: A computerized search of PubMed and Embase (up to Sept 2012) was performed to identify relevant studies. The outcome measures were pain, stiffness, and physical function. Two investigators identified eligible studies and extracted data independently. The quality of the included studies was assessed by the Jadad score. Standard mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated and pooled using a random effects model. The change in outcomes from baseline was compared to the minimum clinically important difference.

Results: A total of seven randomized controlled trials involving 348 patients with osteoarthritis met the inclusion criteria. The mean Jadad score was 3.6. The pooled SMD was -0.45 (95% CI -0.70--0.20, P = 0.0005) for pain, -0.31 (95% CI -0.60--0.02, P = 0.04) for stiffness, and -0.61 (95% CI -0.85--0.37, P<0.00001) for physical function. A change of 32.2-36.4% in the outcomes was greater than the minimum clinically important difference.

Conclusions: Twelve-week Tai Chi is beneficial for improving arthritic symptoms and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis and should be included in rehabilitation programs. However, the evidence may be limited by potential biases; thus, larger scale randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm the current findings and investigate the long-term effects of Tai Chi.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology*
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tai Ji*
  • Treatment Outcome

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.