Virtual Tai Chi program for patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation: Proof-of-concept feasibility trial

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2022 Jul 14;e14429. doi: 10.1111/nmo.14429. Online ahead of print.


Kyle Staller 1 2Mary Paz 3Ramel Rones 4Eric A Macklin 5Isabelle Garcia-Fischer 1 2Helen Burton Murray 1 2Braden Kuo 1 2


Author information

1Division of Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

2Center for Neurointestinal Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

3Institute of Health Professions, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.

4Mind Body Consultant, Tufts Medical Center, Mass General Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

5Biostatistics Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Background: Satisfaction with current treatment options for irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) is low, with many patients turning to complementary treatments. Tai Chi is a mind-body medicine practice with proven efficacy in other functional disorders. As a proof-of-concept, we tested the feasibility and preliminary clinical outcomes associated with a Tai Chi program designed for IBS-C.

Methods: A total of 27 IBS-C patients participated in a single-arm trial of 8 sessions of Tai Chi delivered weekly over 7 weeks via live videoconferencing in group format. Clinical improvement was assessed via change in IBS Symptom Severity Score (IBS-SSS) from baseline to 4 weeks posttreatment (week 11) with secondary outcomes exploring symptom ratings, IBS-related quality of life (IBS-QOL), GI-specific anxiety, abdominal distention, and psychological factors.

Key results: Despite substantial dropout (n = 7; 26%), the treatment protocol had moderate to excellent feasibility for other criteria. Treatment satisfaction was excellent. Exit interviews confirmed high satisfaction with the program among completers, but a high burden of data collection was noted. One participant experienced an adverse event (mild, exacerbation of sciatica). There was a significant improvement in intra-individual IBS-SSS between baseline and posttreatment (average change -66.5, 95% CI -118.6 to -14.3, p = 0.01). Secondary outcomes were notable for improvements in other IBS symptom scoring measures, IBS-QOL, measured abdominal diameter, and leg strength.

Conclusions and inferences: Our data provide preliminary evidence of the feasibility of a Tai Chi intervention for IBS-C, show promise for improving outcomes, and identify more streamlined data collection as an area for further program improvement.


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