Timothy C. Hain, MD

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STUDY: N.I.H. Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). "Tai Chi for Balance Disorders." 1993-1994, Reference # 1R21RR09535-01. Site, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Sponsoring Institution: Northwestern University, Chicago Illinois. Principal Investigator: T. C. Hain, MD. Other investigators: J. Kotsias, Lynne Fuller (PT), L. Weil (PT)smart balance.bmp (22462 bytes)

Our aim was to determine if eight weeks of daily practice of an alternative health care exercise, T'ai Chi, can significantly improve balance of persons with mild balance disorders. We studied 22 persons with stable and mild balance disorders, with numbers distributed equally between 3 age groups : 20-44, 46-60, and 61 and beyond. We evaluated efficacy of T'ai Chi through comparison of functional tests of balance (Romberg, Duncan Reach Test, Moving Platform Posturography) and self-reports of balance and falls (Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) questionnaire, Dizziness Handicap Inventory (DHI) questionnaire), obtained prior to and following the T'ai Chi course.

The Tai Chi movements that we used were selected from several different schools of T'ai Chi and included the following sequence:

  1. Hold the Ball (basic T'ai Chi -- sometimes called "preparation"), taichi.gif (14926 bytes)
  2. Turning the Wheel (Yang style, as illustrated to the right),
  3. Brush Knee and Twist Step (Yang style),
  4. Step Back to Repulse Monkey (Yang style),
  5. Walking the Circle (Pa-Kua style),
  6. Kick heel to left and right (Wu style),
  7. Partition of the Wild Horse's Mane (Wu style),
  8. Hold the Ball.


Highly significant improvements were noted in posturography (average score improved from 59.5 to 64.3) and the MOS and DHI tests. An insignificant improvement was found in the Romberg test (although there was a strong trend). There was no effect on the Duncan Reach test scores. Improvements were found in all age groups.


Eight weeks of T'ai Chi can accomplish significant improvement in balance.