Stroke survivors can improve balance with tai chi

March 24th, 2009 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 24 (IANS) Stroke survivors can improve their balance by practising tai chi, a Chinese martial art, according to a new study.
Tai chi comprises constant coordinated movement of the head, trunk and limbs requiring tremendous concentration and balance control.

Strokes are known to impair the victim’s balance, heightening the risk of a debilitating fall.

Christina Hui-Chan, professor and head of physical therapy at University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC), has studied and used tai chi to improve balance and minimise falls among healthy elderly subjects.

Now she and a colleague have seen similar results in a group of stroke survivors. The study used 136 subjects in Hong Kong who had suffered a stroke more than six months earlier.

Participants were randomly assigned to a tai chi group or a control group that practiced breathing, stretching and other exercises that involved sitting, walking, memorising and reasoning.

They were trained in small groups by physical therapists in a weekly class, then practiced at home three days a week for one hour.

They received 12 weeks of training but were able to learn the technique in as little as eight. The goal was to make the patients as independent in their treatment as possible, Hui-Chan said, according to an UIC release.

“The tai chi group did particularly better in conditions that required them to use their balance control,” Christina said.

“In only six weeks, we saw significant improvements. The ability to shift your weight is very important because all reaching tasks require it,” she added.

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