Centuries-Old Chinese Therapy to Treat Chronic Lower Back Pain

A recent study evaluated the acceptability and feasibility of using T’ai Chi for improving chronic lower back pain in adults over the age of 65 years compared to usual care and health education.

The findings of this study are published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

T’ai Chi has been proven effective for improving chronic lower back pain in older adults. It is a Chinese martial art which is practised for its health benefits and defence training.

It is a promising treatment for adults above the age of 65 years with chronic low back pain (cLBP) for multiple reasons.

According to the estimate of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, almost 75-85% of people in America experience some kind of back pain during their lifetime. Although lower back pain can be quite painful and debilitating in almost 90% of the cases it is temporary and gets improve without surgery. In the United States, approximately $86 billion is annually spent on medical care costs for back or neck pain with particularly increasing costs for back pain in older adults in America.

Some common causes of low back pain include traumatic injury, fracture, herniated disc, sciatica, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, sprains and strains. With the symptoms of pain that moves into legs, buttocks or hips. The pain can be dull, sharp, burning, aching or combination of them. It can be intermittent, constant or activity-related.

Researcher Karen Sherman, PhD and her colleagues from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and the University of Washington focused solely on the adults older than 65 years. They presented the study findings and design in the article “T’ai Chi Chronic Low Back Pain in Older Adults: A feasibility Trial”.

57 participants were enlisted from Kaiser Permanente Washington, an integrated health care system and the classes were held in a Kaiser facility.

Also read- How to Relieve Back Pain Without Using Opioids, Reveals A Renown Spine Surgeon

People who participated in the randomized controlled trials were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of T’ai Chi, a 12-week intervention period of usual care or health education. Measures of retention and recruitment contributed to the assurance of feasibility. The outcomes revealed that the study had acceptable recruitment, an outstanding safety profile and some dropouts. Among all the participants, 62% attended almost 70% of classes of 12-week health education intervention or usual care. Remarkably, 70% of the participants at 52 weeks reported having practised a week before with 3 days median per week and 15 minutes per session. Both the participation and perception of helpfulness were reduced in the health education group.

Dr Sherman summarized that the study proved its feasibility for doing a clinical trial of T’ai Chi for chronic low back pain. She added that more research is required on the lower back pain treatment in older adults.

The editor of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, John Weeks said that the majority of people have become familiar with the images of large groups of older adults in China practising T’ai Chi together. The work of Dr Sherman suggests that older people in the United States may find such practices useful and acceptable.


Amna Rana

Amna Rana, a writing enthusiast and a microbiologist. Her areas of interest are medical and health care. She writes about diseases, treatments, alternative therapies, lifestyles and the latest news. You can find her on Linkedin Amna Rana.

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