Effects of Tai Chi versus Physical Therapy on Mindfulness in Knee Osteoarthritis

Mindfulness (N Y) 2017 Oct;8(5):1195-1205. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0692-3. Epub 2017 Feb 23.

by Augustine C LeeWilliam F HarveyJohn B WongLori Lyn PriceXingyi HanMei ChungJeffrey B DribanLucas P K MorganNani L MorganChenchen Wang


Tai Chi mind-body exercise is widely believed to improve mindfulness through incorporating meditative states into physical movements. A growing number of studies indicate that Tai Chi may improve health in knee osteoarthritis (OA), a chronic pain disease and a primary cause of global disability. However, little is known about the contribution of mindfulness to treatment effect of Tai Chi practice. Therefore, our purpose was to investigate the effect of Tai Chi mind-body practice compared to physical therapy (PT) on mindfulness in knee OA. Adults with radiographic-confirmed, symptomatic knee OA were randomized to either 12 weeks (twice weekly) of Tai Chi or PT. Participants completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) before and after intervention along with commonly-used patient-reported outcomes for pain, physical function, and other health-related outcomes. Among 86 participants (74% female, 48% white, mean age 60 years, 85% at least college educated), mean total FFMQ was 142±17. Despite substantial improvements in pain, function, and other health-related outcomes, each treatment group’s total FFMQ did not significantly change from baseline (Tai Chi= 0.76, 95% CI: -2.93, 4.45; PT= 1.80, 95% CI: -2.33, 5.93). The difference in total FFMQ between Tai Chi and PT was not significant (-1.04 points, 95% CI: -6.48, 4.39). Mindfulness did not change after Tai Chi or PT intervention in knee OA, which suggests that Tai Chi may not improve health in knee OA through cultivating mindfulness. Further study is needed to identify underlying mechanisms of effective mind-body interventions among people with knee OA.


About the Author(s):

Dr. Augustine C. Lee is a physiatrist in Atlanta, Georgia and is affiliated with Shepherd Center. He received his medical degree from University of Toledo and has been in practice between 11-20 years.

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