Beijing, Oct 25 (IANS): Tai chi, the Chinese martial art that involves sequences of very slow controlled movements, may curb the symptoms and complications of Parkinson's disease for several years, claims a research.
Published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, the findings show that practising tai chi was associated with slower disease progression and lower doses of required drugs over time.
"Our study has shown that tai chi retains the long-term beneficial effect on (Parkinson's disease), indicating the potential disease-modifying effects on both motor and non-motor symptoms, especially gait, balance, autonomic symptoms and cognition," said researchers from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
Parkinson's disease is a debilitating and progressive neurodegenerative disorder, characterised by slowness of movement, resting tremor, and stiff and inflexible muscles. It is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.
As yet, there is no cure for Parkinson's, and while drugs can alleviate clinical symptoms, they don't treat all the manifestations of the disease.
The study monitored two groups of patients with Parkinson's disease for more than five years from January 2016 to June 2021. One group of 147 patients practised tai chi twice a week for an hour, aided by the provision of classes to improve their technique.
The other group of 187 patients continued with their standard care, but didn't practise tai chi.
Disease progression was slower at all monitoring points in the tai chi group, as assessed by three validated scales to assess overall symptoms, movement, and balance. The number of patients who needed to increase their medication in the comparison group was also significantly higher than it was in the tai chi group: 83.5 per cent in 2019 and just over 96 per cent in 2020 compared with 71 per cent and 87.5 per cent, respectively.
Cognitive function deteriorated more slowly in the tai chi group as did other non-movement symptoms, while sleep and quality of life continuously improved.
And the prevalence of complications was significantly lower in the tai chi group than in the comparison group: dyskinesia 1.4 per cent vs. 7.5 per cent ; dystonia 0 per cent vs. 1.6 per cent ; hallucinations 0 per cent vs. just over 2 per cent ; mild cognitive impairment 3 per cent vs. 10 per cent ; restless leg syndrome 7 per cent vs. 15.5 per cent.
Falls, dizziness, and back pain were the three side effects reported by study participants, but these were all significantly lower in the tai chi group. While 23 people sustained a fracture, these all occurred during routine daily life and were fewer in the tai chi group: 6 vs. 17.
However, this is an observational study, and as such, can't establish cause and effect, said the researchers, while also acknowledging that the number of study participants was relatively small and they weren't randomly assigned to their group.