‘Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.’

– Lao Tzu Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)


* BMJ Group, Wednesday 25 March 2009

The traditional Chinese exercise Tai Chi may help people who’ve had strokes regain their ability to balance. In a study, people were better able to balance after a 12-week course of Tai Chi than after a course of general exercise and stroke education.

What do we know already?

Having a stroke can damage the parts of the brain that help you keep your balance. Not everyone gets this problem, but some people find it hard to learn to walk again. Problems with balance can mean people are more likely to fall and injure themselves.

Tai Chi is a form of exercise where people learn to move slowly and deliberately through a sequence of standing poses. It’s usually done in smooth, flowing movements and requires a lot of concentration. It’s very popular in China, especially with older people, who often take part in outdoor classes in parks.
What does the new study say?

The study compared two groups of people who’d had strokes more than six months previously. One group had regular sessions of exercise therapy and the other did sessions of Tai Chi. Both groups had 12, weekly, hour-long sessions, and were encouraged to spend another three hours a week practising at home.

At the end of the study, and again four weeks later, the Tai Chi group performed better in tests of how good their balance was when they were standing. They were better able to shift their weight and lean forwards and backwards, and from one side to another. They were also better able to balance on a moving surface, with and without their eyes closed. The general exercise group didn’t show much improvement in these tests.

Neither group improved much in a test looking at speed of mobility, which measured how quickly people could get up from a chair, walk, turn around and sit back down.

How reliable are the findings?

The study only looked at 136 people, but seems to have been carried out well. The people allocated to practice Tai Chi were slightly younger, but the researchers adjusted their results to account for this. Both groups had similar test results at the start of the study.

The results are likely to be fairly reliable, but only looked at the short-term benefits of Tai Chi. It would be useful to know whether the benefits lasted, or whether doing Tai Chi could stop people falling and injuring themselves.
Where does the study come from?

The study was carried out by researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China. It was published in the medical journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, owned by the American Society of Neurorehabilitation. It was funded by the S.K. Yee Medical Foundation and by a grant from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
What does this mean for me?

If you’ve had a stroke and have problems with balance, this is an interesting study. But we don’t know whether the improved balance necessarily translates into fewer falls. Also, although the improvement lasted during the four weeks from the end of the study to the final test, we don’t know whether it would last longer than that. It might depend on whether people continued to practise.

What should I do now?

You could look to see whether there are any Tai Chi classes in your area. However, the study used an adapted form of Tai Chi that had been developed for people with arthritis. You should speak to an instructor to ask whether the type of Tai Chi they teach is suitable for people who’ve had a stroke. You may need extra help or support to make sure you don’t fall while taking part.
From: The Guardian web site, Health: best treatments

Au-Yeung SSY, Hui-Chan CWY, Tang JCS. Short-form Tai Chi improves standing balance of people with chronic stroke. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. Published online January 2009.

© BMJ Publishing Group Limited (“BMJ Group”) 2009

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For information on Tai Chi forms go to the following links:

Tai Chi Short Form

Tai Chi Short Form DVD

Tai Chi Long Form

Marie Favorito and Sharon Smith – Instructors

People With Severe Osteoarthritis Got Relief From Practicing Tai Chi, Study Shows

By Kelley Colihan
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 25, 2008 — A new study shows the ancient Chinese movement art of tai chi can help ease knee pain in people who have severe osteoarthritis.

Researchers, led by Chenchen Wang, MD, MSc, from Tufts Medical Center in Boston, got together 40 people with severe knee osteoarthritis who reported knee pain on most days of the previous month.

The average age of the study participants was 65. All had osteoarthritis for an average of 10 years and were considered overweight, with an average body mass index of 30.

One group practiced an hour of tai chi (adapted from the classical yang style) twice a week for 12 weeks. The comparison group received the same amount of time stretching and boning up on wellness education.

Researchers wanted to see how scores on pain, physical function, health-related quality of life, and mood changed at the end of 12 weeks. They found that the tai chi group improved more than the other group in scores of pain, physical function, depression, and physical quality of life.

Researchers repeated the assessments at 24 weeks and 48 weeks and found that the group that continued to practice tai chi had less pain and longer-lasting function benefits.

A recent CDC study found that the lifetime risk of having symptomatic knee osteoarthritis was nearly 45%, with increased risk for people with history of a knee injury.

Tai chi, sometimes called a “soft martial art,” uses flowing, gentle movements and balancing postures. It also employs a meditative quality, as the mind focuses on the body movements.

The results are being released Oct. 25 at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

The research was partially funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.


American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting, San Francisco, Oct. 24-29, 2008.

News release, American College of Rheumatology.

WebMD Medical News

“It’s our choices, Harry,
that show us what we really are…
far more than our abilities.”

~ Albus Cumbledore from ‘ Harry Potter’ by J K Rowling ~

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that
you too can become great.”

~ Mark Twain ~

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Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness –- shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor studied her own stroke as it happened — and has become a powerful voice for brain recovery.

See how she speaks about the right brain as a receptor for energy and the beauty of one-ness experienced through the right hemisphere. Did you know that a practice of Chi Kung improves the functioning of the right brain?

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