Tai Chi for older adults with chronic multisite pain: a randomized controlled pilot study

  • Tongjian You
  • Elisa F. Ogawa
  • Saurja Thapa
  • Yurun Cai
  • Huan Zhang
  • Satoshi Nagae
  • Gloria Y. Yeh
  • Peter M. Wayne
  • Ling Shi
  • Suzanne G. Leveille
Original Article

Abstract

Background

Chronic pain is associated with poorer cognition and mobility, and fall risk in older adults.

Aims

To investigate the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial of mind-body exercise (Tai Chi) versus light physical exercise in older adults with multisite pain.

Methods

Adults aged ≥ 65 years with multisite pain who reported falling in the past year or current use of an assistive device were recruited from Boston area communities. Participants were randomized to either a Tai Chi or a light physical exercise program, offered twice weekly for 12 weeks. The primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptability. Secondary outcomes included pain characteristics, cognition, physical function, gait mobility, fear of falling, and fall rate.

Results

Of 176 adults screened, 85 were eligible, and 54 consented and enrolled (average age 75 ± 8 years; 96.30% white; 75.93% female). The dropout rate was 18% for Tai Chi and 12% for light physical exercise. For those completing the study, exercise class attendance rate was 76% for Tai Chi and 82% for light physical exercise. There were no significant group differences in most secondary outcomes. Tai Chi significantly lowered pain severity (4.58 ± 1.73 to 3.73 ± 1.79, p < 0.01) and pain interference (4.20 ± 2.53 to 3.16 ± 2.28, p < 0.05), reduced fear of falling (90.82 ± 9.59 to 96.84 ± 10.67, p < 0.05), and improved several single-task and dual-task gait variables, while light physical exercise did not change these measures.

Discussion and conclusions

This study demonstrated the feasibility and acceptability of conducting a larger randomized controlled trial in older adults with multisite pain. Study findings and challenges encountered will inform future research.

Keywords

Chronic pain Mind-body exercise Mobility Falls Feasibility 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank HELP study participants for their engagement in this research. In addition, we thank the directors and staff of the University of Massachusetts Boston Health Services and community agencies who provided valuable support to our project. We thank all research assistants and students who worked on this project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Peter Wayne, one of our research consultants, is the founder and owner of the Tree of Life Tai Chi Center. He was consulted on Tai Chi design and manuscript preparation. The authors declare no other conflicts of interest.

Statement of human and animal rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, College of Nursing and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  3. 3.Huan’s Tai ChiCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of MedicineBeth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterBostonUSA
  5. 5.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  6. 6.Osher Center for Integrative MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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