Improve Recovery from Stroke with Tai Chi Practice
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Suffering from a stroke is a tremendous event for anyone to face, but the practice of tai chi offers the possibility for a regeneration of the mind, body, and spirit.“ – Saebo
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke and it is the third leading cause of death, killing around 140,000 Americans each year. A stroke results from an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, depriving it of needed oxygen and nutrients. This can result in the death of brain cells and depending on the extent of the damage produce profound loss of function. Strokes come in two varieties. The most common (87%) is ischemic stroke resulting from a blocked artery. But strokes can also occur due to leaking or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, known as hemorrhagic stroke.
There are a number of risk factors for stroke that are unchangeable, such as family history, age, and genes. But there are a very large number of factors that are under our control including high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, poor diet, sedentariness, and obesity. Given this list it is clear that basic physical fitness and exercise would be excellent for stroke prevention. The ancient mindful movement technique Tai Chi is a very safe form of gentle exercise that appears to be beneficial for stroke victims. It is difficult to get stroke survivors to engage in exercise. Perhaps the practice of Tai Chi, since it is very gentle, might be acceptable and effective in the treatment of stroke survivors.
In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi for Stroke Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6068268/ ), Lyu and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the 21 published research studies of the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice for patients undergoing rehabilitation from a stroke.
They found that Tai Chi practice in addition to conventional rehabilitation therapy in comparison to conventional rehabilitation therapy alone produced significantly greater gains in the victims ability to conduct daily living activities, in their limb motor abilities, balance, and walking ability. These results are impressive and suggest that Tai Chi practice is a safe and effective addition to conventional rehabilitation therapy for stroke victims to improve movement and thereby improve their ability to conduct their normal daily activities.
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 almost ideal gentle exercise to be added to conventional rehabilitation therapy for the treatment of stroke survivors.
So, improve recovery from stroke with tai chi practice.
“Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge. Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls.” – Ruth Taylor-Piliae
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Lyu, D., Lyu, X., Zhang, Y., Ren, Y., Yang, F., Zhou, L., … Li, Z. (2018). Tai Chi for Stroke Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 983. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00983
Background: Stroke is a major cause of poor health and has numerous complications. Tai Chi (TC) may have positive effects on the rehabilitation of stroke survivors, but recent clinical findings have not been included in previously published reviews.
Objectives: We conducted this systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the effectiveness of all types of TC vs. conventional rehabilitation therapy for all aspects of stroke survivors’ rehabilitation that have been studied.
Method: We searched seven electronic literature databases (three in English, four in Chinese) and one clinical registry platform using established strategies to identify randomized controlled trials performed up to October 2017. Screening, quality assessment, and data collection were performed by two researchers separately, using the same standard. The results were analyzed using RevMan 5.3.0. The quality of evidence was evaluated with GRADEpro.
Results: A total of 21 studies with 1,293 stroke survivors met inclusion criteria; 14 were included in the quantitative synthesis to evaluate four aspects and five outcomes. Nine studies indicated that TC was able to improve independent activities of daily living (ADL), especially TC vs. conventional rehabilitation therapy [mean difference (MD) [95% confidence interval (CI)] = 9.92 [6.82, 13.02], P < 0.00001]. Five studies reported significant effects of TC plus conventional rehabilitation therapy in increasing scores on the Fugl–Meyer Assessment for the upper limb [MD (95%CI) = 8.27 [4.69, 11.84], P < 0.0001], lower limb [MD (95%CI) = 2.75 [0.95, 4.56], P = 0.003], and overall [MD (95%CI) = 4.49 [1.92, 7.06], P = 0.0006]. The Berg Balance Scale revealed significant improvements according to pooled estimates for TC vs. conventional rehabilitation therapy [MD (95%CI) = 5.23 [3.42, 7.05], P < 0.00001]. TC plus conventional rehabilitation therapy also improved walking ability as measured by the Holden scale [MD (95%CI) = 0.61 [0.38, 0.85], P < 0.00001] and up-and-go time [MD (95%CI) = 2.59 [1.76, 3.43], P < 0.00001].
Conclusion: TC has an overall beneficial effect on ADL, balance, limb motor function, and walking ability among stroke survivors, based on very low-quality evidence, and may also improve sleep quality, mood, mental health, and other motor function. Well-designed, higher-quality trials with longer-term follow-up periods are needed to develop better-quality evidence.