FYBROMYALGIA: CAN TAI CHI WORK FOR YOU?
Those with fybromyalgia have probably tried most treatments from drugs to acupuncture. The treatments are focused on reducing symptoms, not curing the disease. Many treatments are alternative measures that try to use the body’s own way of healing to help. One of these treatments is the slow-motion, Chinese martial art exercise known as Tai Chi. In a recent study, this form of exercise has indicated a relief in longstanding fibromyalgia symptoms and an improved quality of life for patients. According to the study, just 12 weeks of tai chi made the difference.
THE STUDY RESULTS
In the study, 66 patients were divided up into two groups; those who practiced the education/stretching group and the tai chi group. Those who practiced tai chi saw their fibromyalgia become much less severe compared with patients who received wellness education and stretching exercises. They also slept better, felt better, had less pain, had more energy, and had better physical and mental health. It was definitely better results than those reported in clinical trials where drugs were used. According to the researchers, 10% to 20% of the patients that were randomly assigned to tai chi did not feel it helped them. But 50% to 60% of the patients were really involved in the exercise and after about eight weeks began to feel better. The improvement was gradual but steady. The patients that were benefited asked that the program be continued for them after the trial was completed.
WHAT IS TAI CHI?
Tai chi basically is a mind/body exercise that has its roots in Chinese culture and philosophy. A basic principle of Tai Chi is that a healthy body requires a strong mind. Practice involves using meditation, breath control, and strong but gentle motions to direct the flow of energy through the body.
For the study, patients in the Tai Chi group practiced in hour-long training sessions that took place twice a week for 12 weeks. Not only did they practice the moves of the art but training also included instruction in meditation, breathing techniques, and relaxation. Patients were told to practice at home for at least 20 minutes a day.
These fybromyalgia patients were not the only ones to benefit from tai chi. In another completed study, patients with all kinds of arthritis, including fibromyalgia, were given tai chi for a treatment option and results were compiled. They were very similar to the results from the first study. Patients indicated improvement in pain, stiffness, and fatigue. Improvements were seen in sleep measure, self-efficacy, and balance. And people with arthritis were more aware of the space around them and had more confidence in their balance or ability not to fall.
While doing the tai chi, patients still remained on their medications but they felt they didn’t have to take them as often.
Although no one treatment works to reduce symptoms of fybromyalgia, maintaining several treatments will effectively reduce symptoms. Tai chi is absolutely worth a try. Of course, remember that there is always some pain when introducing a new exercise, so take it slow and don’t overdo. Tai chi is safe and there are no side-effects but the benefits can be exactly what the doctor ordered.