Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet. Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of bones, enabling them to move against each another) and surrounding structures.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004-2005 National Health Survey approximately 3 million Australians, or 15.3% of the population, suffered from some form of arthritis. Of these, about 60% were women. The prevalence of osteoarthritis is approximately three and a half times greater than that of rheumatoid arthritis. The rates of both increase with age, and are highest among those aged 65 and over.

Medical practitioners recommend tai-chi for people with a variety of musculoskeletal conditions because it improves flexibility and builds muscle strength gradually. As an example, Arthritis Queensland promotes tai-chi because muscular strength supports and protects the joints, which will reduce pain and stiffness, thus improving mobility. Stamina and fitness are important for overall health and proper function of your heart, lungs and muscles.

Tai Chi for Arthritis can help people with arthritis to achieve all of these and more. Additional benefits include improved relaxation, balance, posture and immunity. On their website, The Arthritis Foundation reports on a 1991 study that evaluated the safety of Tai Chi for rheumatoid arthritis patients. The result of the study was that 10 weeks of Tai Chi classes did not worsen joint problems and that there was the potential to stimulate bone growth and strengthen connective tissue from the weight bearing aspects of Tai Chi.

A study conducted by the Department of Nursing at Soonchunh Yang University, South Korea on the effects of Tai Chi in older women with osteoarthritis concluded that older women with osteoarthritis were able to safely perform the 12 forms of Tai Chi exercise for 12 weeks, and this was effective in improving their arthritic symptoms, balance, and physical functioning.