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 Plans, Protocols and Medical Systems
|For more information about plans and protocols, see our Integrative Plans and Protocols page.|
- Plans, protocols and programs
- Alschuler & Gazella complementary approaches10
- Cohen & Jefferies Mix of Six anticancer practices11
- Lemole, Mehta & McKee protocols12
- Traditional systems
Non-cancer Uses of Tai Chi
BCCT has not reviewed the effectiveness of this therapy for non-cancer uses.
Written by Nancy Hepp, MS, and reviewed by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS; most recent update on January 15, 2019. Note: BCCT has not conducted an independent review of research of tai chi. This summary draws from CAM-Cancer, the Mayo Clinic and other sources as noted.
Brian Bouch discusses integrative oncology, part 1
- 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: Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- 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
- Erlene Chiang: Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Treating Cancer and Grief
- Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies: Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six
- Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- September 2018 Issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine