Arthritis is a common joint condition that affects mostly older adults. Symptoms are pain, stiffness, swelling and redness around the joint. Arthritis in the hips and knees can also cause falls. The main reason for this increased risk of falling is that arthritis can cause muscle weakness, reduced sensation and body awareness, as well as poor balance and pain.
Weak muscles can make it difficult doing daily activities like shopping and cleaning the house. It is important to have strong muscles for walking, getting up out of a chair and climbing stairs. Furthermore, reduced awareness about the position of your body, often referred to as proprioception, can make it more difficult to move around safely.
Research studies have reported that reduced muscle strength and proprioception can affect balance and make you feel unsteady on your feet. High levels of pain, which is often reported by people suffering from arthritis, can also affect balance and physical function, increasing the risk of falling.
Exercise is often recommended to manage the symptoms of arthritis. Muscle weakness of the lower body can be improved with exercise, such as resistance training and aerobic exercise. Balance and walking speed can be improved with Tai chi and other specific balance exercises.
Tai Chi for Arthritis
The Tai Chi for Arthritis program is enjoyable, safe and easy for people with arthritis to learn. The evidence-based program was developed by tai chi leaders and medical specialists and incorporates tai chi principles for improving health and wellness, which have also been shown to be effective in preventing falls.
Research has shown that it is suitable for people with arthritis to incorporate exercises to improve muscular strength, flexibility and fitness. Increased muscular strength supports and protects joints. Flexibility exercises also help to reduce pain and stiffness while improving mobility. Fitness is important for overall health and proper function of you heart, lungs and muscles.
Tai Chi involves slow, controlled movements and postures which are suitable for people with arthritis. Tai Chi for Arthritis involves 12 movements or positions that are designed to be safe and beneficial for people with arthritis. Instructors are trained to understand the symptoms of arthritis and ensure the movements are safe for participants.
Tai Chi for Arthritis is available in a trainer-led class or at home by using the instructional DVD and handbook available from Arthritis Victoria. The DVD is also available from Tai Chi Productions in a range of languages – Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, German, French and Spanish.
- Physiological Risk Factors for Falls in Older People with Lower Limb Arthritis (2004) Sturnieks, D et al. https://jrheum.com/subscribers/04/11/2272.html
- Arthritis NSW http://arthritisnsw.org.au
- Tai Chi for Arthritis ® http://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/programs/tai-chi-for-arthritis/