Arthritis: considerations for doctors recommending therapies and therapists


Doctors have a difficult job when recommending an arthritic patient to certain health therapies, health therapists and exercise therapists.


The doctor must know and have personal experience of:-

·        the particular health therapy, health therapist, and exercise therapist.

·        organisations, doctors, and individuals who strongly recommend the therapy and therapist.


Very often, the doctor does not have any personal experience of either the therapy or the therapist but had heard about it a lot in promotional materials and ‘hearsay’ from professional colleagues or organisations.


There is a lot of misinformation in the marketplace and internet, as well as government, semi-government organisations and ‘foundations’ which are devoted to certain ailments and therapies. Many doctors have no option but to rely on such misinformation from what seem to be official and authoritative organisations.


The clue is for the doctor to have a deep knowledge of arthritis – what it is, what causes it, diagnosis, what relieves it, treatment, management etc. And then apply that knowledge to the particular therapy or therapist.


For example, every doctor knows that and mild exercises helps relieve arthritic pain and helps retard the progress of arthritis.


When considering a particular Tai Chi program for the patient, DO NOT RELY SOLEY ON RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PROFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES OR ORGANISATIONS, but research into that program.


Refer to my article on the 6 types of exercise that are suitable for arthritis as the guide. Does the program have sufficient inclusions of all the 6 types of exercises?


Do not rely on the opinions of colleagues or organisations or even those who have used the program – YOU OWE YOUR PATIENTS A DUTY OF CARE TO FIND OUT THE FACTS YOURSELF!!!   For example, attend a training class of the therapy!  Or if a video of the therapy is available, borrow it from the library to have a look at it.

·        Does it have extensive warm-up and stretching exercises before the program begins?

·        Does it have extensive range-of-motion exercises, similar to what a physiotherapist would teach?

·        Does it have extensive wrist, elbows, knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, and spinal rotational exercises?

·        Does it have extensive hand and fingers and toes exercises (eg., stretching, bending, grasping, extending)?

·        Does it have extensive muscle and ligament strengthening exercises (isometric, light weight bearing etc)?

·        Does it have any aerobic and endurance exercises?


THE REASON WHY I take the pains to write this is because in my 29 years of teaching Tai Chi Chuan in Australia, I have NEVER seen a suitable Tai Chi program that satisfies my standards and requirements of treating arthritis adequately. Maybe my standards are higher, but it is my opinion as a teacher of Tai Chi Chuan.


Drastically cut-down versions of Tai Chi Chuan do not satisfy my requirements as a Tai Chi Chuan teacher and health therapist for the treatment and management of arthritis.


If, in the worst case scenario, the doctor is unable to make deep research into the therapy and the therapist(s), then I suggest a very quick and dirty way to be used as an emergency and basis of a first advice. Just consider the following 3 questions:-


·        Is it harmful? (eg., more pain, fatigue, inflammation)

·        Is the therapy or therapist being "promoted" or "exploited"? (eg., large advertisements, widely publicised, recommended by large organisations or authorities, lots of commercial videos, ‘be an /therapist/instructor after 6 months’, very ‘persuasive’)

·        Does it prevent the patient from following your treatment? (non-compliance, refusal of medical treatment or advice)


If the answer is ‘yes’ to any one of the 3 questions, proceed with caution. If the answer is ‘yes’ to any 2 questions, do not recommend.


Another shortcut, and my preferred shortcut, is to request the patient to attend the program or get the video of the program and review it, judging the contents using the above criteria.


If the patient "thinks" or "believes" a program has helped relief the arthritic condition, allow to continue until you have a better plan with superior result. It is possible that the patient may have found something that works.


Always encourage the patient’s participation in exercises and arthritic management with optimism, hope, encouragement, faith in the treatment and in you as a physician. His belief that he will improve may greatly assist in relieving his symptoms and delay or halt the progression of arthritis.


Any doctor or arthritic patient is uncertain of any Tai Chi program or therapist is welcome to contact me and I will try my best to give my opinion. Please note that it is my opinion, and it reflects my standards as a professional teacher of Tai Chi Chuan (thus ho knows what Tai Chi Chuan is about and what it does and what the benefits are) and a health therapist (a practitioner of Chinese herbalism, acupuncturist, masseur and healer). It is not the truth – it is my opinion, and everybody is entitled to one.




Written by John Chow,  a practitioner of Chinese medicine, acupuncturist, masseur, healer and teacher of martial arts and spiritual paths in Melbourne, Australia.

Copyright:-  No part of this article can be used, quoted, copied in any form without the permission from the author.  For further information on this article, please contact John Chow  at


Legal caveat:-

The information provided above is for general reference only. Although the author(s) has attempted to be as thorough as possible in compiling the information in this article(s), no legal responsibility nor liability is accepted for any errors or omissions. The information is presented for educational purposes only. Please refer any medical matter to your doctor before acting on any health-related information.