Tai Chi in Parkinson’s Disease: A Preliminary Randomized, Controlled, and Rater-Blinded Study


Background: Given the limited benefits of current treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD), inter-ventions that might provide supplementary benefits would be of value. The traditional Chinese medicine practice of Tai Chi has been said to improve some aspects of PD, particularly imbalance. Methods: Preliminary randomized, controlled, and rater-blinded clinical trial of Tai Chi, focusing on its effects on global motor, daily function, mood and quality of life. Subjects continued their standard medical therapy and were randomly assigned to Tai Chi (16 weekly classes, expert trainer, practice at home between classes) or no Tai Chi (control group) in a 2:1 ratio. The primary outcome measure was the total motor score of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and this was scored by an experienced rater who was blinded to the treatment assignment. The same rater scored the Schwab and England Activities of Daily Living Scale. The patient-completed Geriatric Depression Scale, PD (quality of life) Questionnaire-39, and fall diary were also analyzed. Results: 44 subjects participated with 29 assigned to Tai Chi and 15 serving as controls. Tai Chi was well-tolerated. Seven subjects withdrew prior to completion (2 from Tai Chi, 5 from control). We found no significant difference between treatment groups in the change in scores from baseline to end of intervention for any of the scales. Trends toward a benefit of Tai Chi were observed for individual UPDRS items (depression, finger tapping, hand movements, posture). Conclusions: Tai Chi does not appear to improve global measures in patients with PD. The practice may have benefits for PD, but these appear to be largely restricted to specific motor tasks and perhaps mood rather than being a global functional response. More study is needed to clarify and establish efficacy.

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Kurlan, R. , Evans, R. , Wrigley, S. , McPartland, S. , Bustami, R. and Cotter, A. (2015) Tai Chi in Parkinson’s Disease: A Preliminary Randomized, Controlled, and Rater-Blinded Study. Advances in Parkinson's Disease, 4, 9-12. doi: 10.4236/apd.2015.41002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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