Improve Balance and Mobility and Prevent Falls in Parkinson’s Disease Patients with Tai Chi
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“There is still so much to learn from research about exactly how exercise improves the physical and mental well-being of people with living with Parkinson’s disease, as well as which combinations or activities yield the best outcomes, but there is no doubt whatsoever that exercise remains one of the best therapies for preserving and enhancing quality of life.” – Davis Phinney
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an incurable progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. The condition is caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are around seven million people worldwide and one million people in the U.S. living with PD and about 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year. PD is associated with aging as the vast majority of patients are diagnosed after age 50. In fact, it has been speculated that everyone would eventually develop PD if they lived long enough.
Its physical symptoms include resting tremor, slow movements, muscle rigidity, problems with posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, and slurring of speech. PD itself is not fatal but is often associated with related complications which can reduce life expectancy, such as falls, choking, and cardiovascular problems. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) also has psychological effects, especially cognitive decline, anxiety, and depression. All of these symptoms result in a marked reduction in the quality of life.
There are no cures for Parkinson’s Disease or even treatments to slow its progression. There are only treatments that can produce symptomatic relief. So, there is a need to discover new and different treatments. Mindfulness training has been found to improve the psychological symptoms and the quality of life with PD patients. In addition, Tai Chi practice has been shown to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Hence, Tai Chi may be an excellent treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of Tai Chi Exercise on Reducing Falls and Improving Balance Performance in Parkinson’s Disease: A Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409066/), Liu and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice to improve balance and mobility and reduce falls in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients. They found and reviewed 5 published randomized controlled trials that compared Tai Chi practice to no intervention, stretching/resistance training, and walking control conditions.
They report that the trials found that in comparison to baseline and the control conditions Tai Chi practice significantly improved balance and functional mobility in the Parkinson’s Disease patients and reduced the number who experienced a fall. This is important as the compromised motor ability of patients with Parkinson’s Disease makes them much more vulnerable to falls and the resultant compromised health. By improving balance and mobility in these patients Tai Chi practice produces enhanced health and well-being.
The results of the published research strongly suggests that Tai Chi practice should be routinely prescribed for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Tai Chi is a gentle and safe mindfulness practice. It is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an excellent gentle practice to improve the well-being of patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
So, improve balance and mobility and prevent falls in Parkinson’s Disease patients with Tai Chi.
“Daily Tai Chi practice is extremely helpful to those with chronic ailments and illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, respiratory problems and irritable bowel syndrome to name a few,” – Mwezo
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Liu, H. H., Yeh, N. C., Wu, Y. F., Yang, Y. R., Wang, R. Y., & Cheng, F. Y. (2019). Effects of Tai Chi Exercise on Reducing Falls and Improving Balance Performance in Parkinson’s Disease: A Meta-Analysis. Parkinson’s disease, 2019, 9626934. doi:10.1155/2019/9626934
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder that may increase the risk of falls, functional limitation, and balance deficits. Tai Chi was used as an option for improving balance in people with PD. The aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the effects of Tai Chi on falls, balance, and functional mobility in individuals with PD.
The literature search was conducted in PubMed, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PEDro, Medline, Embase, sportDISCUS, Trip, and the National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations in Taiwan. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) analyzing the effects of Tai Chi, compared to no intervention or to other physical training, on falls, functional mobility, and balance in PD patients were selected. The outcome measurements included fall rates, Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Functional Reach (FR) test, and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Two reviewers independently assessed the methodological quality and extracted data from the studies using the PEDro scale.
Five RCTs that included a total of 355 PD patients were included in this review. The quality of evidence in these studies was rated as moderate to high. Compared to no intervention or other physical training, Tai Chi significantly decreased fall rates (odds ratio = 0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.30 to 0.74, and p=0.001) and significantly improved balance and functional mobility (BBS mean difference (MD) = 3.47, 95% CI 2.11 to 4.80, and p < 0.001; FR MD = 3.55 cm, 95% CI 1.88 to 5.23, and p < 0.001; TUG MD = −1.06 s, 95% CI −1.61 to −0.51, and p < 0.001) in people with PD.
This meta-analysis provides moderate- to high-quality evidence from five RCTs that Tai Chi could be a good physical training strategy for preventing falls and improving balance and functional mobility in people with PD.