Healthy Living

Tai Chi: An Effective Treatment for Parkinson's Disease

Tai Chi: An Effective Treatment for Parkinson's Disease

A new study indicates that tai chi, an exercise that involves flowing and gentle poses, can be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s who have mild to moderate symptoms.

For people with Parkinson’s, the cells responsible for making dopamine are slowly destroyed. This chemical sends signals to nerve cells in order to guide the movement of the muscles. As a result, when these cells die, Parkinson’s patients have stiff, unbalanced, and shaky movements. Movements, such as walking, may be tougher to start for them.

There are medications that can help alleviate some of the symptoms that patients have. However, many of these medications are not effective for the axial symptoms, which are related to walking and balance.

According to experts, more studies are conducted to confirm the effectiveness of tai chi for people with Parkinson’s, and many of them vouch for its effectiveness as a therapy to improve patients’ movements and balance. Tai chi has also been found to even prevent falls.

Research and studies that support tai chi as a form of therapy for Parkinson’s

John Hopkins School of Medicine

Dr. Ray Dorsey, who is a neurologist and associate professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, says that the results of the study conducted at John Hopkins impressed him. He is also the director of the Movement Disorders Center and Neurology Telemedicine. However, he is not part of the study. He adds that it is not easy to compare the results with other studies, but he observed that the impact of tai chi is greater than the medications for Parkinson’s patients.

For this study, doctors grouped the 195 participants who have mild to moderate Parkinson’s to three groups. The first group had tai chi sessions, the second had exercises using weights, and the third had a program where they did seated stretching. All of these groups had a one-hour session twice a week.

After half a year, it was observed that participants who took tai chi were able to bend farther forward or backward. There are also lesser instances of falling or stumbling as compared to those who did resistance exercises and stretching. In addition, their movements are more direct and smoother. They also walked longer than the participants in the other two groups.

Similar to resistance training, tai chi can help people with Parkinson’s to walk and stand up faster. They also improve the strength of their legs.

The most striking benefit of tai chi is the prevention of falls. Falling is highly likely to happen to people with Parkinson’s, so they are more prone to serious injuries, concussions, and fractures. This is also the main and common cause for patients to be hospitalized. In the study, it was discovered that the participants who were in the tai chi group had half the number of instances of falling as compared to those who did resistance exercises. In addition, they had two-thirds lesser cases of falling than those who were in the stretching group.