You want to know what Big Pharma’s afraid of? Studies like this — which I hope keep coming fast and furious…before the mainstream launches its next shameless attempt to discredit alternative medicine completely.
A new randomized trial recently appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It’s the first of its kind. And it compares the benefits of Tai Chi to more conventional physical therapy in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
If you’re not familiar with it, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that doubles as a gentle and relaxing form of modern exercise. It combines slow movements with deep breathing. So we’re talking about something just about anyone — in just about any condition — can do.
This universal accessibility is one of the main reasons researchers have been eyeing it as a potential arthritis therapy. Because let’s face it: The usual suspects for treating chronic pain aren’t exactly doing us any favors.
For one thing, over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs and acetaminophen don’t always control arthritis pain effectively. And once you factor in the potential side effects of these drugs — ulcers, bleeding, even osteoporosis (all very typical complications, unfortunately) — the risk/benefit ratio becomes an even harder sell.
Needless to say, prescription pain drugs introduce an even scarier set of problems. So physical therapy (PT) is always going to be the preferable treatment choice. And research shows that it does deliver significant improvements in both pain and physical function, which is why it’s so often recommended.
But researchers are less sure about its psychological benefits… not to mention the fact that it has diminishing returns in the long term. (And I don’t know about your town, but in NYC, there are PT centers on practically every street corner. So someone is making a lot of money off of it…)
Back to this latest study, though: Researchers assigned participants to one of two groups. One group had two hour-long sessions of Tai Chi weekly for 12 weeks. The other group received standard physical therapy for 30 minutes twice weekly for six weeks — followed by monitored home exercise for another six weeks.
At the end of the 12-week study period, Tai Chi outperformed physical therapy pretty much across the board — most notably, when it comes to pain score improvement.
Both physical therapy and Tai Chi delivered clinically significant benefits. And both were able to maintain those benefits for a full year. But the Tai Chi group stood out exactly where physical therapy tends to fall short — delivering far greater improvements in both depression and overall quality of life.
That’s a pretty crucial difference. And it’s the reason, I think, why people are always on the lookout for alternatives to mainstream medical treatments. Conventional medicine may offer some targeted relief for specific ailments — but typically, it fails miserably at improving overall health. And I can tell you that my patients absolutely expect their lives to improve when they see me — not just to have a particular symptom go away.
With studies like this, I’d at least hope to see an uptick in Tai Chi “prescriptions.” (Of course, how long it will take insurance companies to start paying for it is a whole different story.)
In the meantime, just remember that there are safe, natural alternatives for effective pain relief. I’ve covered this topic extensively, both here and in my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. Type “arthritis” into the search function on my website, www.drpescatore.com for a full rundown. Subscribers have access to all of those articles — and more.
So if you haven’t already, sign up today. And get ready to kick risky pain drugs to the curb for good.