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Tai Chi Chuan As Physical Therapy For Knee Pain

Tai Chi or T’ai Chi Ch’üan is a Chinese martial art that started in Chenjiagou aka Chen village. Since it was originally conceived as a martial art, many people don’t know that it’s also used for several health benefits and personal reasons such as improved life expectancy, competitive wrestling, demonstration competitions, and so on. An even little-known benefit of tai chi is its ability to be used as a form of physical therapy for rehab injuries. In case you’re having knee issues, tai chi might be the ideal form of therapy to get rid of the pain and stiffness.

Study suggests Tai Chi is better than physical therapy

A 2016 study conducted by Boston researchers – that also appeared on Harvard’s blog – compared the impact of standard physical therapy vs. tai chi on 204 patients. These people were aged 40 or more, had knee pain and their knee x-rays had shown osteoarthritis. Here are some takeaways from the results:

  • The study continued for 12 weeks, and the subjects experienced the impact for at least 12 months
  • Both the groups saw more or less the same degree of improvements
  • While the health benefits were similar, the Tai Chi group saw better results in terms of reduced depression and improvements in certain measures of life quality. This seems to second the claim of tai chi practitioners that it’s a holistic body-mind practice.

Tai Chi exercises to alleviate knee pain

No matter what exercise you do, remember you don’t want to rotate your knees. Unlike your hips or ankles, your knees are hinge joints and not designed to rotate. Also, there can be several different reasons that can cause knee pain. If there is an underlying issue, exercises may or may not relieve the pain but that will not be long lasting, so know and treating the cause is important.  Read more about knee pain here. If, however, there is no underlying condition, some simple exercises can bring instant relief and help regain strength.

Massage and friction

Sit down on a chair with both feet flat on the ground, put one of your legs out and rub the outside your patella (the kneecap) in an up and down motion with your palms vigorously. If it feels uncomfortable, elevate your extended leg but keep it lower than your hips. Friction increases blood flow and helps remove any gases stuck around the patella. Stand up, and you will instantly feel a difference. Avoid doing this exercise if you have swelling or inflammation around the knee. Use ice to get the inflammation down first and also talk to your doctor.

Horse stance

Probably one of the best tai chi exercises for knee rehabilitation. Just as the name suggests, the workout mimics the stance as if you’re riding a horse. Stand with your knees stretched slightly wider than your shoulders, feet right under the knees and pointing straight ahead, and from there try to round your crotch like you’re on a horse by bending a little and relaxing the knees. Hold your arms in front of you at the level of your heart, with elbows bent at about 40 degrees as if you’re hugging a tree. This stance gives this exercise it another name, i.e. hug the dree. Sink your shoulder, avoid leaning forward, keep your back straight, and gently pull your chin in. The goal is to hold this stance for 20 minutes, but as a beginner don’t worry if you get fatigued far earlier.

Tai Chi squatting

This is one of the several different tai chi squat workouts and is a hard exercise that will take some practice. It will not only help with knee pain but also strengthen your knees. Stand with your feet a little wider than your shoulder width apart. Extend your arms in front of you and squeeze them as tight as you can, tighten your core, and sit back as you’re sitting in a very low chair. At the same time, bend your upper body as far back as you can. Hold for about 30 seconds and then stand up straight on your toes with your weight on your big toe for stabilization. Hold there for about 10 seconds and then keeping your weight on your toes and arms stretched, sit back as you’re sitting on a bar stool – don’t go down too much. You’ll feel your quads burning, which is a good sign. Try to hold it for as long as you can. Stand up, relax, and repeat ten times.

In the end, always remember this one little tip when practicing Tai Chi routine: your knees should feel better and not hurt. If you do feel any pain, it means you are not doing it right.

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Joe Fleming

About Joe Fleming

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces...the goal is help others “rebel against age”.

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2 thoughts on “Tai Chi Chuan As Physical Therapy For Knee Pain”

  1. Thabks, it’s a good article. Of course the overall structure is connected, hip and foot mobility is for example very related to knee health. So what is important in Taijiquan is to have a strong core concept how to move the overall body structure to create knee health and how to create a useful spiral power in Chen-style which is nit based on rotating the knee joints as seen much too often.

  2. Hi, you had shared a great view to get recover from the neck or head pain through physical therapy.Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

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