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A randomized trial of tai chi for fibromyalgia

Wang C, Schmid CH, Rones R, Kalish R, Yinh J, Goldenberg DL, Lee Y, McAlindon T. A randomized trial of tai chi for fibromyalgia. N Engl J Med. 2010 Aug;363(8):743–54. PubMed #20818876.
Tags: treatment, fibromyalgia, exercise, controversy, chronic pain, pain problems, self-treatment, debunkery

PainSci summary of Wang 2010?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★☆☆☆?2-star ratings are for studies with flaws, bias, and/or conflict of interest; published in lesser journals. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

The study, funded by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, shows that taiji has some beneficial effects for fibromyalgia patients. However, there’s nothing the least bit mystical about that, and it has no business being presented like a victory for “alternative” medicine. This is interesting in itself, but it is also the second embarrassing example of this in the New England Journal of Medicine (see Berman). See Dr. David Gorski’s detailed analysis: Tai chi and fibromyalgia in the New England Journal of Medicine.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract

BACKGROUND: Previous research has suggested that tai chi offers a therapeutic benefit in patients with fibromyalgia.

METHODS: We conducted a single-blind, randomized trial of classic Yang-style tai chi as compared with a control intervention consisting of wellness education and stretching for the treatment of fibromyalgia (defined by American College of Rheumatology 1990 criteria). Sessions lasted 60 minutes each and took place twice a week for 12 weeks for each of the study groups. The primary end point was a change in the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) score (ranging from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms) at the end of 12 weeks. Secondary end points included summary scores on the physical and mental components of the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). All assessments were repeated at 24 weeks to test the durability of the response.

RESULTS: Of the 66 randomly assigned patients, the 33 in the tai chi group had clinically important improvements in the FIQ total score and quality of life. Mean (+/-SD) baseline and 12-week FIQ scores for the tai chi group were 62.9+/-15.5 and 35.1+/-18.8, respectively, versus 68.0+/-11 and 58.6+/-17.6, respectively, for the control group (change from baseline in the tai chi group vs. change from baseline in the control group, -18.4 points; P<0.001). The corresponding SF-36 physical-component scores were 28.5+/-8.4 and 37.0+/-10.5 for the tai chi group versus 28.0+/-7.8 and 29.4+/-7.4 for the control group (between-group difference, 7.1 points; P=0.001), and the mental-component scores were 42.6+/-12.2 and 50.3+/-10.2 for the tai chi group versus 37.8+/-10.5 and 39.4+/-11.9 for the control group (between-group difference, 6.1 points; P=0.03). Improvements were maintained at 24 weeks (between-group difference in the FIQ score, -18.3 points; P<0.001). No adverse events were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Tai chi may be a useful treatment for fibromyalgia and merits long-term study in larger study populations. (Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and others; number, NCT00515008.)

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This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog.