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Tai Chi, a low-impact mind-body exercise, can be as effective as neck exercises in relieving persistent neck pain, according to results of randomized controlled trial reported in The Journal of Pain, the peer-reviewed publication of the American Pain Society.

An international team of researchers investigated the efficacy of group Tai Chi compared with group neck exercises and no treatment to improve neck pain, disability and quality of life in groups of people with nonspecific chronic neck pain. They hypothesized that 12 weeks of Tai Chi would prove superior to no treatment for chronic neck pain. The study also explored whether Tai Chi was more and less effective than conventional neck exercises.

One hundred fourteen subjects were enrolled in the trial. Eligibility requirements were age18 years or older and having chronic neck pain for three consecutives months.

“The study results showed that 12 weeks of Tai Chi was more effective than no treatment to improve pain, disability, quality of life and postural control in persons with chronic neck pain,” said Peter M. Wayne, Ph.D., a co-author, founder of the Tree of Life Tai Chi Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He added that Tai Chi was neither superior nor inferior to 12 weeks of neck exercises.

Tai Chi originated in China and involves integrated dynamic musculoskeletal breathing and meditation training. It often is used for health care purposes and evidence supports its potential to help people with back pain, rheumatologic disease and psychological disorders. No studies had been performed previously to determine Tai Chi’s benefits in relieving chronic neck pain.

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Source: American Pain Society

Journal Reference:

  1. Romy Lauche, Christoph Stumpe, Johannes Fehr, Holger Cramer, Ying Wu Cheng, Peter M. Wayne, Thomas Rampp, Jost Langhorst, Gustav Dobos. The Effects of Tai Chi and Neck Exercises in the Treatment of Chronic Nonspecific Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Pain, 2016; 17 (9): 1013 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2016.06.004