Impact of Tai Chi on Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to your peripheral nerves, often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet. It can also affect other areas of your body. Exercise may be beneficial to older persons living with peripheral neuropathy but maintaining an exercise program is challenging.

After participating in a 12-week Tai Chi study run by the University of Texas at Tyler and East Texas Baptist University, 12 participants requested classes continue. A mixed-methods design was used to explore long-term engagement of older persons with bilateral peripheral neuropathy enrolled in a Tai Chi class for 18 months beyond the original 3-month study. Pre- and posttest measures of functional status and quality of life (QOL) were conducted. Focus groups were held after 18 months of twice-weekly classes.

Psychosocial support was critical to participants' long-term commitment to exercise. Participants reported, and objective assessments confirmed, increased strength, balance, and stamina beyond that experienced in the original 12-week study. Changes in QOL scores were nonsignificant; however, qualitative data supported clinical significance across QOL domains. Results from this study support psychosocial and physical benefits of Tai Chi to older persons with peripheral neuropathy.

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