Reduce Spinal Degeneration in the Elderly with Tai Chi Practice

Reduce Spinal Degeneration in the Elderly with Tai Chi Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi has been studied as a form of therapeutic exercise and has been shown to improve balance and prevent falls in the elderly.  It can also be a safe and effective way to improve leg strength, hip range of motion, and posture, and is a gentle way to improve neck, shoulder and arm range of motion and movement patterns. The integration of breathing, movement, and energy awareness aspects of this exercise form equates to a “spine-healthy” activity.” – Denver Back Pain

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. A consequence of the physical decline is impaired balance. It is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. The spine also deteriorates and with age there can be degeneration of the vertebrae and discs.

 

There is some hope for age related decline, however, as there is evidence that it can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of decline. For example, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Tai Chi is also known to improve spinal health. So, it would seem reasonable to examine the ability of Tai Chi practice to slow or prevent age related increases in the degeneration of the vertebrae and discs.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5971519/ ), Deng and Xia recruited long-term Tai Chi practitioners between the ages of 50 to 70 years and a group of non-practitioners who were matched for gender, age, weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). All participants underwent a lumbar vertebral Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The images were evaluated by a blinded radiologist for “lumbar vertebrae with degeneration (osteoporosis, hyperosteogeny) and lumbar discs with degeneration (low signal intensity, herniation).”

 

They found that the Tai Chi practitioners had significantly fewer (27%) degenerated vertebra and significantly fewer (21%) degenerated discs than the matched control participants. The authors attributed the lower amount of degeneration to the strengthening of back muscles that is produced by Tai Chi Practice.

 

This study does not contain randomized groups with manipulated Tai Chi participation. As such, conclusions regarding causation need to be tempered. It is possible that people who have or are prone to lumbar degeneration are the people who do not engage in Tai Chi practice. Randomized Clinical Research is needed to clarify this point.

 

But, those older adults who practiced Tai Chi clearly had less lumbar degeneration. This suggests that this group will have enhanced spinal health and will experience less debilitating back pain as they age.

 

So, reduce spinal degeneration in the elderly with Tai Chi practice.

 

“Strengthening the back stabilizer muscles is very similar to tai chi training. The key is an upright posture, using abdominal breathing, and exercising the stabilizers through the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominus muscles. This is one of the major reasons why tai chi works so well for back pain.” – Kelly Rehan

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Deng, C., & Xia, W. (2017). Effect of Tai Chi Chuan on degeneration of lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs in middle-aged and aged people: a cross-sectional study based on magnetic resonance images. The Journal of international medical research, 46(2), 578-585.

 

Short abstract

Objective

Exercise has a positive effect on physical fitness. Tai Chi Chuan is a traditional Chinese aerobic exercise. We assessed the effect of Tai Chi on the degeneration of lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs with magnetic resonance images.

Methods

This retrospective cohort study involved 2 groups of participants: 27 Tai Chi practitioners with more than 4 years of experience with regular Tai Chi exercise and 24 sex- and age-matched participants without Tai Chi experience. The lumbar magnetic resonance images of all participants were collected. The numbers of degenerated lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs were evaluated by the same radiologist, who was blind to the grouping.

Results

The Tai Chi practitioners had significantly fewer degenerated lumbar vertebrae (1.9) and lumbar discs (2.3) than the control group (2.6 and 2.9, respectively). The most severely affected lumbar vertebrae and discs were L5 and L4/L5, respectively.

Conclusion

Regular performance of the simplified Tai Chi 24 form could possibly retard the degeneration of lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs in middle-aged and aged people.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5971519/

 

Prevent Osteoporosis with Tai Chi Practice

Prevent Osteoporosis with Tai Chi Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“There are many ways that tai chi helps people with osteoporosis. An excellent study showed tai chi slowed down the loss of bone density approximately three fold. “ – Paul Lam

 

Bone is living tissue that, like all living tissues, is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone. This results in a loss of bone mass, causing bones to become weak and brittle. It can become so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. These fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide. In the United States 54 million adults over 50 are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass. Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. The disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease.

 

The most common treatments for osteoporosis are drugs which slow down the breakdown of bone, combined with exercise. The side effects of the drugs are mild, including upset stomach and heartburn. But, there is a major compliance problem as the drugs must be taken over very long periods of time. In fact, only about a third of patients continue to take their medications for at least a year. Even when drugs are taken, exercise is recommended to improve bone growth. Indeed the mindful movement exercise of yoga has been shown to improve osteoporosis. The ancient mindful movement technique Tai Chi is a very safe form of gentle exercise that should make it potentially beneficial for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

 

In today’s Research News article “The effect of Chinese martial arts Tai Chi Chuan on prevention of osteoporosis: A systematic review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866477/), Chow and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the 9 published research studies of the effects of Tai Chi practice on mineral bone density. The published studies included a total of 1222 participants. They found that Tai Chi practice produced significant increases in mineral bone density but it required fairly long practice periods, greater than 4 months. There were indications that Tai Chi practice was particularly effective for women. This is encouraging as osteoporosis is much more prevalent in women than in men.

 

These results are encouraging and suggest that Tai Chi practice may be an effective treatment to prevent the development of osteoporosis. Importantly, Tai Chi is gentle and safe, is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, such as stroke recovery, 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 exercise to prevent bone mineral loss and the development of osteoporosis.

 

So, prevent osteoporosis with Tai Chi practice.

 

 “women who practiced tai chi for 45 minutes per day, five days per week for a year had a rate of bone loss that was 3.5 times slower than those who didn’t. This improvement was reflected in their bone mineral density.” – AlgaeCal

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Chow, T. H., Lee, B. Y., Ang, A. B. F., Cheung, V. Y. K., Ho, M. M. C., & Takemura, S. (2018). The effect of Chinese martial arts Tai Chi Chuan on prevention of osteoporosis: A systematic review. Journal of Orthopaedic Translation, 12, 74–84. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jot.2017.06.001

 

Summary

Background/Objective

Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) is suggested to have beneficial effects on the musculoskeletal system. The aim of this systematic review is to evaluate the evidence of the effect of TCC on bone mineral density (BMD) and its potential for prevention of osteoporosis.

Methods

A literature search was conducted using PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases from inception to January 2017. Randomized controlled studies, case–control trials, prospective cohort studies, and cross-sectional studies which evaluated the effect of TCC on BMD were selected without any subject or language restriction.

Results

Nine articles met the inclusion criteria, including seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs), one case–control trial (CCT), and one cross-sectional study, encompassing a total of 1222 participants. Five studies showed statistically significant improvements in BMD after TCC, three studies showed nonsignificant intergroup differences, and one study provided no statistical evaluation of results. The studies with nonsignificant results tended to have a shorter total duration of TCC practice. Apart from dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), two studies additionally used peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) which showed statistically significant positive effects of TCC on preventing osteoporosis.

Conclusion

TCC is beneficial to BMD and may be a cost-effective and preventive measure of osteoporosis. This beneficial effect is better observed in long-term TCC practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866477/

 

Reverse Osteoporotic Bone Loss with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga’s emphasis on strength-building, balance and alignment can help people with osteoporosis avoid injury. Low-impact weight-bearing yoga poses stimulate bone growth to build stronger bones. Standing poses can build strength in your hips, an area commonly affected by osteoporosis. Light back-bending back extension poses decompress the vertebrae and build spinal strength.” – Kristin Shea

 

Bone is living tissue that, like all living tissues, is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone. This results in a loss of bone mass, causing bones to become weak and brittle. It can become so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. These fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. Osteoporosis, particularly in its early stages, is difficult to diagnosis as there are typically no symptoms of bone loss. But once bones have been weakened, signs and symptoms may include: back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra, loss of height over time, a stooped posture, or a bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected.

 

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide; approximately 10% of women aged 60, 20% of women aged 70, 40% of women aged 80 and 70% of women aged 90. In the United States 54 million adults over 50 are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass; 16% of women and 4% of men. Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, including 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over age 50. Most fractures occur in postmenopausal women and elderly men. Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. The disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease.

 

The most common treatments for osteoporosis are drugs which slow down the breakdown of bone, combined with exercise. The side effects of the drugs are mild, including upset stomach and heartburn. But, there is a major compliance problem as the drugs must be taken over very long periods of time. In fact, only about a third of patients continue to take their medications for at least a year. Even when drugs are taken, exercise is recommended to improve bone growth.

 

Yoga is a relatively gentle low-cost exercise that can be adjusted to the capabilities of elderly individuals. “By pitting one group of muscles against another, yoga exposes bones to greater forces and, therefore, might enhance bone mineral density more than other means.” So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that yoga practice might be effective in the treatment of osteoporosis. In today’s Research News article “Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1281868151837108/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851231/

Lu and colleagues recruited participants over the internet who had recent bone density measures and were willing to practice yoga for 12 minutes per day. Only participants who complied and practiced yoga at least every other day were included in the final sample. In the four years prior to the study the participants lost bone density with an average loss per month of −0.0036 g/cm2 for the spine, −0.00008 g/cm2 for the hips, and −0.009 for the femora and 109 bone fractures were reported. After practicing yoga for two years the participants increased bone density with an average gain per month of 0.048, 0.088, and 0.0003 g/cm2, for spine, hips, and femora and only 19 bone fractures were reported.

 

These are exciting results and suggest that the practice of yoga has long-term benefits for bone health. These results suggest that osteoporotic bone loss can be reversed with yoga. The people studied were from all over the world, making the results highly generalizable to disparate populations. Also, yoga practice has many additional benefits for psychological and physical health and it is safe, low-cost, and can be adapted for individuals at varying ages and physical conditions.

 

Hence, practice yoga for bone health.

 

”yoga poses, have improved bone strength and mineral density significantly. . . .They showed a dramatic rise in the bone mineral density of those that practiced yoga. The people that did not do any yoga had the expected modest fall in their bone mineral density.” – Lauren Fishman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Lu, Y.-H., Rosner, B., Chang, G., & Fishman, L. M. (2016). Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 32(2), 81–87. http://doi.org/10.1097/TGR.0000000000000085

 

Abstract

Objective:

Assess the effectiveness of selected yoga postures in raising bone mineral density (BMD).

Methods:

Ten-year study of 741 Internet-recruited volunteers comparing preyoga BMD changes with postyoga BMD changes.

Outcome Measures:

Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometric scans. Optional radiographs of hips and spine and bone quality study (7 Tesla).

Results:

Bone mineral density improved in spine, hips, and femur of the 227 moderately and fully compliant patients. Monthly gain in BMD was significant in spine (0.0029 g/cm2, P = .005) and femur (0.00022 g/cm2, P = .053), but in 1 cohort, although mean gain in hip BMD was 50%, large individual differences raised the confidence interval and the gain was not significant for total hip (0.000357 g/cm2). No yoga-related serious injuries were imaged or reported. Bone quality appeared qualitatively improved in yoga practitioners.

Conclusion:

Yoga appears to raise BMD in the spine and the femur safely.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851231/

 

Fight Osteoporosis with Yoga

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga puts more pressure on bone than gravity does. By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulates osteocytes, the bone-making cells.” – Loren Fishman

 

Bone is living tissue that, like all living tissues, is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone. This results in a loss of bone mass, causing bones to become weak and brittle. It can become so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. These fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. Osteoporosis, particularly in its early stages, is difficult to diagnosis as there are typically no symptoms of bone loss. But once bones have been weakened, signs and symptoms may include: back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra, loss of height over time, a stooped posture, or a bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected.

 

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide; approximately 10% of women aged 60, 20% of women aged 70, 40% of women aged 80 and 70% of women aged 90. In the United States 54 million adults over 50 are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass; 16% of women and 4% of men. Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, including 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over age 50. Most fractures occur in postmenopausal women and elderly men. Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. The disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease.

 

The most common treatments for osteoporosis are drugs which slow down the breakdown of bone, combined with exercise. The side effects of the drugs are mild, including upset stomach and heartburn. But, there is a major compliance problem as the drugs must be taken over very long periods of time. In fact, only about a third of patients continue to take their medications for at least a year. Even when drugs are taken, exercise is recommended to improve bone growth.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Yogasanas on osteoporosis in postmenopausal women”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1198346906855900/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728958/

Motorwala and colleagues studied the effects of yoga practice on bone density of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. The women were treated with a 1-hour yoga practice, 4-days per week for 6-months, including postures and breathing exercises. Bone density was measured before and again after treatment with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). They found that yoga practice resulted in a significant improvement in bone density. Without treatment, bone density generally becomes worse over this period of time. So, it would appear that yoga practice improves bone density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

 

This is an important outcome, but it probably understates the benefits of yoga practice for these postmenopausal women. It has been shown that yoga practice produces a number of physical and psychological benefits that were not measured in the present study. In addition, yoga is a generally safe treatment with few adverse consequences. Hence, various weight bearing as well as nonweight bearing yoga postures along with breathing exercises are effective in improving bone density and integrated yoga exercises should be an important component of any osteoporosis treatment exercise regime.

 

So, fight osteoporosis with yoga.

 

“We often consider the frailty and disability associated with osteoporosis and osteopenia (bone loss that is not as severe as osteoporosis) as a normal part of aging. Medical research shows, however, that it’s not aging, but inactivity that causes bones to weaken and easily break. Although medications may be necessary to treat severe osteoporotic conditions, the best preventative strategy is to engage in bone-strengthening exercise, like yoga” – Gary Kaplan

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies