Effects of Tai Chi on beta endorphin and inflammatory markers in older adults with chronic pain: an exploratory study


The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the effects of Tai Chi on blood levels of beta endorphin (β-endorphin) and inflammatory markers in older adults with chronic pain. Forty community-dwelling older adults with chronic pain were randomized to Tai Chi or light physical exercise, and each offered twice weekly for 12 weeks. Following the 12-week intervention, neither Tai Chi nor light physical exercise changed levels of β-endorphin and inflammatory markers. However, in older adults who completed 70% or more classes, Tai Chi significantly lowered levels of β-endorphin (p < 0.05), whereas light physical exercise did not change levels of β-endorphin. The results suggest that Tai Chi may reduce levels of β-endorphin in older adults with chronic pain. Future studies are needed to better understand the role of the opioid analgesic system and immune system in regulating pain with aging and the long-term effects of Tai Chi on pain-related biomarkers.

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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R21 AG043883).

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Correspondence to Tongjian You.

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The study protocols and consent procedures were approved by the University of Massachusetts Boston Institutional Review Board.

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You, T., Ogawa, E.F., Thapa, S. et al. Effects of Tai Chi on beta endorphin and inflammatory markers in older adults with chronic pain: an exploratory study. Aging Clin Exp Res 32, 1389–1392 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40520-019-01316-1

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  • Tai Chi
  • Chronic pain
  • Older adults
  • Beta endorphin
  • Inflammation