Adverse effects of tai chi are rarely reported, and may include sore muscles or sprains. Tai chi should be avoided by people with severe osteoporosis or joint problems, acute back pain, sprains, or fractures. Advancing too quickly while studying tai chi may increase the risk of injury.
Tai chi instructors sometimes recommend that practice be avoided during active infections, right after a meal, or when very tired. Some believe that visualization of energy flow below the waist during menstruation may increase menstrual bleeding. Straining downwards or holding low postures should be avoided during pregnancy, and by people with inguinal hernias. Some tai chi practitioners believe that practicing for too long or using too much intention may direct the flow of chi (qi) inappropriately, possibly resulting in physical or emotional illness.
Tai chi should not be used as a substitute for more proven therapies for potentially serious conditions. Individuals should consult a qualified healthcare professional if they experience dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, or severe pain while practicing tai chi.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Balance and strength maintenance
Preliminary research suggests that tai chi practice may improve balance and maintain strength. These benefits may be similar to other forms of exercise. Additional research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Based on a small study, tai chi may provide short-term benefits after traumatic brain injury; however, long-term studies are needed.
Tai chi chuan has been studied in breast cancer patients to improve functional capacity (specifically aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility). Larger studies are needed to make a firm recommendation.
There is evidence that suggests tai chi decreases blood pressure and cholesterol as well as enhances quality of life in patients with chronic heart failure. Most studies have used elderly Chinese patients as their population. Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Chickenpox, shingles (varicella zoster)
A small trial showed that treatment with tai chi might increase immunity to the virus that causes shingles. This may suggest the use of tai chi in the prevention of chickenpox and shingles, but further well-designed large studies must be done before a recommendation can be made.
Preliminary research suggests that tai chi may alleviate depression, anger, and fatigue. Better studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Several studies suggest that tai chi may is a form of aerobic exercise that can improve aerobic capacity. In particular, a benefit has been reported with the classical Yang style.
Fall prevention (elderly)
Several studies have examined the effects of regular tai chi practice on balance and falling risk in the elderly. Results are not consistent, and many studies have been poorly designed. It is not clear if tai chi is safer or more effective than other forms of exercise in older individuals. Better research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
A small trial in women with osteoarthritis reported that treatment with tai chi significantly decreased pain and stiffness compared with a sedentary lifestyle. Women in the tai chi group also reported fewer perceptions of difficulties in physical functioning.
Preliminary research suggests that tai chi may be beneficial in delaying early bone loss in postmenopausal women. Additional evidence and long-term follow-up is needed to confirm these results.
Quality of life (HIV)
Tai chi has been studied in individuals living with various stages of HIV disease. Preliminary study shows it may be helpful for stress and improving quality of life, but additional research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Well-being/fitness/physical functioning/breathing in the elderly
Several studies suggest that tai chi may improve heart and lung fitness, muscle strength, handgrip strength, flexibility, gait, coordination, sleep and may decrease the risk of osteoporosis. It is not clear if these benefits are different from other forms of exercise. Nearly all of the studies that exist in these areas compare tai chi programs with a sedentary lifestyle, not with another form of exercise. Tai chi has been found to be of low to moderate intensity in the cardiovascular studies thus far, which makes tai chi a candidate for certain rehabilitation programs. Additional research is needed before a recommendation can be made.