Aims and objectives. (i) To assess the effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). (ii) To ascertain if Tai Chi and auricular acupressure have a potentiation effect in controlling pain. (iii) To evaluate the acceptability and enjoyment of the classes.
Background. Tai Chi has been suggested as a suitable exercise for people with arthritis and specific programmes have been developed. Auricular acupressure is a therapeutic method by which points on the ear are stimulated to treat various disorders.
Design. A pragmatic non-randomised before/after study to compare the effects of the interventions.
Methods. People with RA (n = 21) were recruited and allocated into two groups. Both groups followed a Tai Chi exercise programme, twice a week for 12 weeks, but one group (n = 14) had, in addition, the auricular acupressure. Physical symptoms and function, pain, quality of life and self-efficacy were measured in both groups before and after the programme. Acceptability and enjoyment were assessed at the end.
Results. At 12 weeks, both groups had achieved statistically significant improvements in balance, grip strength, pinch strength, 50 foot walk time self reported joint pain, swollen joint count, tender joint count and in self efficacy in relation to pain control. All participants stated that they enjoyed the classes. There was no evidence to suggest that the auricular acupressure enhanced the effects of the Tai Chi intervention.
Conclusion. The classes appeared to be mentally as well as physically helpful to participants.
Relevance to clinical practice. People with a chronic debilitating disease such as RA should be encouraged to undertake gentle strengthening exercise such as Tai Chi because of its potential for physical and psychological improvements.