A new study has been published concerning the potential positive effects of tai chi on fibromyalgia. What is fibromyalgia? Why is this study important? Can tai chi help fibromyalgia symptoms?
What Is Fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia is considered a syndrome. It is a collection of symptoms with no proven cause. The symptoms of this debilitating syndrome include chronic pain that affects muscles, tendons and other soft tissue and often joints. There are also tender points that hurt more when pressure is applied. Other symptoms include extreme fatigue, sleep problems and possibly bowel problems and neurological problems among other symptoms. It is believed that those with fibromyalgia have increased sensitivity to pain because of how nerve signals are processed in the brain.
What Is Tai Chi? Tai chi is a series of meditation movements. This uninterrupted series of smooth-flowing movements is designed to bring balance to the mind and body. Physical and spiritual energy is increased through a combination of controlled breathing, meditation and gentle movement. You can see a video of the Yang-style tai chi movements here.
Newest Study Regarding Effects of Tai Chi on Fibromyalgia. A study performed by Tufts University School of Medicine was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding the effects of Yang-style tai chi on fibromyalgia symptoms. Participants engaged in special hour-long classes twice a week and at home for 20 minutes on other days. There was a self-reported improvement in quality of life for those who did the tai chi movements compared to the control group. Those improvements included reduced pain, increased movement and energy and mental alertness.
This Study Is Not New News. A pilot study published in Orthopaedic Nursing in 2003 showed a self-reported improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms for those who participated in tai chi exercise. Also, there is an article on the National Fibromyalgia Association website that shows gentler forms of tai chi may reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
How Could Tai Chi Ease Fibromyalgia Symptoms? Those with fibromyalgia have chronic pain that is often severe and debilitating. Painful muscles can become weak and painful joints could become stiff. Light forms of exercise are encouraged for those with fibromyalgia to increase range of motion and reduce pain. But for many, the pain is too severe for most forms of exercise. Tai chi’s gentle movements put less stress on muscles and joints allowing for the benefits of exercise.
What Is the Importance of this Study? This was a small study so further studies need to be done. But, the good news is that those who participated in tai chi did not experience any negative side effects. Most actually improved their symptoms and the perception of overall quality of life. So those with fibromyalgia can try tai chi with very little risk with the chance to improve their quality of life.
Fibromyalgia and Tai Chi. If you have fibromyalgia, tai chi may be the right exercise for you to reduce symptoms. Speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Also, it is important to find a licensed tai chi instructor, preferably in the Yang-style or tai chi for arthritis, who is willing to modify movements depending on your specific symptoms.
THIS INFORMATION IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT REPLACE THE ADVICE OF A PHYSICIAN. SEE YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM. SEEK OUT ONY LICENSED TAI CHI INSTRUCTORS FOR YOUR EXERCISE PLAN.
Google Videos; Tai Chi – Yang Style Complete Set
Chenchen Wang, M.D., M.P.H., et al.; A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia; New England Journal of Medicine
Helen M. Taggart, et al.; Effects of T’ai Chi Exercise on Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Health-Related Quality of Life; Orthopaedic Nursing
Dr, Paul Lam and Robin Malby; Tai Chi for Arthritis – or Fibromyalgia; National Fibromyalgia Association