Nancy Hepp, MS, BCCT Project Manager
Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, BCCT Senior Researcher
Last updated September 1, 2020.
Also known by these names
Tai chi is a form of traditional Chinese martial art, mind-body exercise and meditation. With slow, graceful sets of body movements and controlled breathing, tai chi is practiced to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and overall health.1 Many individual styles of tai chi have evolved.2
Clinical Practice Guidelines
2009 evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology conclude that therapies based on a philosophy of bioenergy fields are safe and may provide some benefit for reducing stress and enhancing quality of life. Only limited evidence is available regarding their efficacy for symptom management, including reducing pain and fatigue. The Society for Integrative Oncology gives a strong recommendation for these therapies:3
- For reducing anxiety: grade 1B (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)
- For pain, fatigue, and other symptom management: grade 1C (strong recommendation, low- or very low-quality evidence)
Managing Side Effects and Promoting Wellness
Managing or relieving side effects or symptoms, reducing treatment toxicity, supporting quality of life or promoting general well-being
How Does Tai Chi Differ from Qigong ?
The qi (also spelled chi) is “the life energy that flows through the body’s energy pathways.” Tai chi and qigong both cultivate the qi by combining movement, breathing and meditation.
A 2017 review and meta-analysis of 22 studies involving both tai chi and qigong (another movement and meditation therapy) found significant improvement in these areas after three to 12 weeks of training and practice:7
Tai chi movements are low impact, putting minimal stress on muscles and joints. Tai chi practice is generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. A few medical conditions may require caution, as listed on the Mayo Clinic website: women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia should consult their healthcare providers. Because tai chi involves very little risk and is associated with improved cancer symptoms and quality of life, many practitioners are comfortable recommending it for patients.
Tai chi is widely available as classes, on video or online. Many hospitals, wellness centers and other health-related facilities offer tai chi classes.
Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems
|For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.|
- Programs and protocols
- Alschuler & Gazella complementary approaches11
- Cohen & Jefferies Mix of Six anticancer practices12
- Lemole, Mehta & McKee protocols13
- Traditional systems
Non-cancer Uses of Tai Chi
BCCT has not reviewed the effectiveness of this therapy for non-cancer uses.
Brian Bouch discusses integrative oncology, part 1
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Tai Chi and Qi Gong: In Depth
- CAM-Cancer: Tai Chi
- Mayo Clinic: Tai chi: A gentle way to fight stress
- Livestrong: Tai Chi for Beginners
- MD Anderson Cancer Center: Tai Chi Can Help Cancer Patients
- National Cancer Institute: Cancer Pain Control: Support for People with Cancer
- September 2018 Issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition
- Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies: Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- American Tai Chi and Qigong Association: Locate Tai Chi and/or Qigong Classes
- National Cancer Institute: Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Erlene Chiang: Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Treating Cancer and Grief