If you’ve had knee replacement surgery or are looking into it, your doctor probably did or should have warned you that if you put too much weight on it or do certain high-impact exercises you will wear out your new body part! Once you are done with recovery and have eased back into your normal activities as much as possible, you may still want to exercise. In fact, you were or will probably be instructed to do some knee-strengthening exercises. Consider Tai Chi for your Knees or Knee Replacements!
Tai Chi is already recommended for people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. “Tai Chi may be an especially applicable treatment for older adults…The physical component provides exercise consistent with current recommendations…range of motion, flexibility, muscle conditioning and aerobic cardiovascular exercise…the mental component could address the chronic pain state through effects on psychological well-being, life satisfaction, and perceptions of health.”
While Tai Chi may improve the symptoms of OA for some, for others, Severe OA may lead to knee replacement surgery. After knee replacement surgery, you still need exercise that addresses range of motion, flexibility and the strength of your muscles. Additionally, you may want to lose weight to avoid putting too much stress on your new knee. The goal is to improve your quality of life and the longevity of your knee replacement.
People who have had knee replacements tend to have reduced strength in their quadriceps compared to those who have their natural knees. Studies have shown that Tai Chi is effective for weight loss, improves the range of motion in your joints, and also leads to improved strength and greater flexibility. It is also a low-impact exercise and is therefore gentle on your knees, natural or replaced.
Tai Chi also improves your proprioception in regard to your knees. Proprioception is the sense of your body position and movement. If your proprioception is affected, your mind-body connection is disrupted and you are more likely to make unsafe movements that lead to injury and/or falls. One study showed that those who practice Tai Chi have better proprioception at the ankle and knees than sedentary adults and even than swimmers and runners!
Furthermore, Tai Chi helps with gait retraining. Gait is the sequence of how you move, and more specifically, how you move your limbs. If you suffer from OA or any other condition that causes knee pain, it is quite likely that you developed a dysfunctional gait. This was probably due to avoiding movements that cause pain. The problem is the dysfunctional movement becomes a habit, and even after eliminating the pain through a knee replacement or other method, you are still probably moving the wrong way. Tai Chi is simulates more of the type of gait challenges you are likely to encounter during your daily activities. As you go through each movement, you will learn how you move and why and what changes to make.
Basically, Tai Chi is great for your knees. If you knees are fine, it protects them because it is low-impact. If your knees are not so good, it may help you lose weight and avoid dysfunctional habits that are causing your pain. If you receive a knee replacement, Tai Chi can help you regain your strength, flexibility and improve your range of motion. So, what are you waiting for?