Tai Chi and Yoga for Arthritis

Exercise is often a central component of arthritis pain management. Integrative medicine practitioners often advise arthritis patients to consider tai chi or yoga for managing symptoms.

See Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Tai Chi

This mind-body exercise uses meditation, deep breathing, and low-impact, constant, flowing movement.

Many experts believe tai chi reduces symptoms and improves balance in patients who have arthritis, including osteoarthritis,1 ankylosing spondylitis,2 and rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, tai chi may improve mood and promote a sense well being, particularly for those living with chronic pain.3

See More Holistic Life Changes for Pain and Depression

Tai chi can be done in a group setting or alone. It is considered safe for all ages and abilities. (An instructor can demonstrate modified poses to accommodate people with injuries or limited movement.) Moreover, tai chi does not require special equipment and is low- to no-cost, making it accessible to most people.



Evidence suggests people with various types of arthritis can improve their physical symptoms as well as mood by regularly practicing yoga.4-7 All yoga practices try to use movement, stretching, breathing, and relaxation to improve strength, flexibility, and peace of mind.

Yoga poses can look intimidating or impossible to some people, particularly people coping with arthritis pain. A well-qualified yoga instructor can show participants modified or alternative poses to accommodate stiff joints and protect against further injury. These accommodations allow most people to participate fully in yoga classes and optimize yoga’s benefits.

There are several different types of yoga, and each type features different poses and practice principles. For example:

  • Anusara yoga focuses heavily on both the mind and the body
  • Bikram yoga features an specific series of poses and is done in a room heated to 105 F
  • Vinyasa yoga focuses on the flow from pose to pose and each class may feature a different routine.

There is no research showing one type of yoga to be more beneficial than another, so people with arthritis should choose what they enjoy and works best for them.


  • 1.Song R, Lee EO, Lam P, Bae SC. Effects of tai chi exercise on pain, balance, muscle strength, and perceived difficulties in physical functioning in older women with osteoarthritis: a randomized clinical trial. J Rheumatol. 2003 Sep;30(9):2039-44. PubMed PMID: 12966613.
  • 2.Lee EN, Kim YH, Chung WT, Lee MS. Tai chi for disease activity and flexibility in patients with ankylosing spondylitis--a controlled clinical trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Dec;5(4):457-62. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem048. Epub 2007 Jul 13. PubMed PMID: 18955296; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2586320.
  • 3.Waite-Jones JM, Hale CA, Lee HY. Psychosocial effects of Tai Chi exercise on people with rheumatoid arthritis. J Clin Nurs. 2013 Nov;22(21-22):3053-61. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12327. Epub 2013 Sep 13. PubMed PMID: 24033836.
  • 4.Moonaz SH, Bingham CO 3rd, Wissow L, Bartlett SJ. Yoga in Sedentary Adults with Arthritis: Effects of a Randomized Controlled Pragmatic Trial. J Rheumatol. 2015 Apr 1. pii: jrheum.141129. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25834206.
  • 5.Evans S, Moieni M, Lung K, Tsao J, Sternlieb B, Taylor M, Zeltzer L. Impact of iyengar yoga on quality of life in young women with rheumatoid arthritis. Clin J Pain. 2013 Nov;29(11):988-97. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31827da381. PubMed PMID: 23370082; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3644391.
  • 6.Sharma M. Yoga as an alternative and complementary approach for arthritis: a systematic review. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2014 Jan;19(1):51-8. doi: 10.1177/2156587213499918. Epub 2013 Sep 10. Review. PubMed PMID: 24647379.
  • 7.Edavalath M. Ankylosing spondylitis. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2010 Jul;1(3):211-4. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.72619. PubMed PMID: 21547050; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3087367.
Further Reading: Exercising with Arthritis