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This article is the author’s final published version in JMIR Formative Research, Volume 6, Issue 6, June 2022, Article number e34995.

The published version is available at Copyright © Gomaa et al.


Background: Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are the endocrine therapy of choice recommended for these patients. Up to 50% of those treated with an AI develop arthralgia, often resulting in poor adherence and decreased quality of life.

Objective: The study is a single-arm longitudinal pilot study aiming to evaluate the safety, feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of TaiChi4Joint, a remotely delivered 12-week tai chi intervention designed to relieve AI-induced joint pain.

Methods: Women diagnosed with stage 0-III breast cancer who received an AI for at least 2 months and reported arthralgia with a ≥4 score on a 0 to 10 scale for joint pain were eligible for study enrollment. Participants were encouraged to join tai chi classes delivered over Zoom three times a week for 12 weeks. Program engagement strategies included using a private Facebook study group and a Box cloud for archiving live class recordings. The program uses SMS text messaging and emails with periodic positive quotes and evidence-based information on tai chi for facilitating community bonding and class attendance. Participants were invited to complete the following assessments at baseline and at 1-, 2-, and 3-month intervals from study enrollment: Brief Pain Inventory, Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), The Australian Canadian Osteoarthritis Hand Index (AUSCAN), Fatigue Symptom Inventory, Hot Flash Related Daily Interference Scale (HFRDIS), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D).

Results: A total of 55 eligible patients were invited to participate, and 39 (71%) consented and completed the baseline assessments. Participants attended 61% (median) of the suggested classes, with no tai chi-related adverse events reported. Of the 39 participants, 22 completed the 3-month follow-up assessment with a 56% retention rate. Study participants reported improvement from baseline compared to 3 months as follows (paired t test): Brief Pain Inventory (P<.001), AUSCAN pain subscale (P=.007), AUSCAN function subscale (P=.004), Fatigue Symptom Inventory (P=.004) and PSQI (P<.001), and HFRDIS (P=.02) and CES-D (P<.001). In particular, for our primary end point of interest, improvements in hip and knee symptoms, measured by WOMAC's three subscales, were clinically meaningful and statistically significant when adjusted for multiple comparisons from baseline to 3 months post intervention.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in the need to rethink how mind-body therapies can be delivered. This study demonstrated the feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of a telehealth-based tai chi intervention for reducing AI-induced arthralgia. The intervention decreased patient-reported pain and stiffness, and improved sleep quality and depressive symptoms. Fully powered, large, telehealth-based tai chi trials for AI-associated arthralgia are needed considering our promising findings.

Trial registration: NCT04716920;

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