Can Tai Chi improve vestibulopathic postural control?

Author: Wayne PM//Krebs DE//Wolf SL//Gill-Body KM////
Affiliation: Research Department, New England School of Acupuncture, Watertown, MA 02472, USA.
Conference/Journal: Arch Phys Med Rehabil
Date published: 2004
Other: Volume ID: 85 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 142-52 , Word Count: 309

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the rationale and scientific support for Tai Chi as an intervention for vestibulopathy and to offer recommendations for future studies. DATA SOURCES: A computer-aided search, including MEDLINE and Science Citation Index, to identify original Tai Chi studies published in English; relevant references cited in the retrieved articles were also included. STUDY SELECTION: A preliminary screening selected all randomized controlled trials (RCTs), non-RCTs, case-control studies, and case series that included Tai Chi as an intervention and had at least 1 outcome variable relevant to postural stability. DATA EXTRACTION: Authors critically reviewed studies and summarized study designs and outcomes in a summary table. DATA SYNTHESIS: Twenty-four Tai Chi studies met screening criteria. No studies specifically studying Tai Chi for vestibulopathy were found. Collectively, the 24 studies provide sometimes contradictory but generally supportive evidence that Tai Chi may have beneficial effects for balance and postural impairments, especially those associated with aging. Ten RCTs were found, of which 8 provide support that Tai Chi practiced alone, or in combination with other therapies, can reduce risk of falls, and/or impact factors associated with postural control, including improved balance and dynamic stability, increased musculoskeletal strength and flexibility, improved performance of activities of daily living (ADLs), reduced fear of falling, and general improvement in psychologic well-being. Studies using other designs support the results observed in RCTs. CONCLUSIONS: At present, few data exist to support the contention that Tai Chi specifically targets the impairments, functional limitations, disability, and quality of life associated with peripheral vestibulopathy. There are, however, compelling reasons to further investigate Tai Chi for vestibulopathy, in part because Tai Chi appears useful for a variety of nonvestibulopathy etiologic balance disorders, and is safe. Especially needed are studies that integrate measures of balance relevant to ADLs with other psychologic and cognitive measures; these might help identify specific mechanisms whereby Tai Chi can remedy balance disorders.