When the New England Journal of Medicine (1) speaks, people take notice. There has been a new study recently released by the New England Journal of Medicine which suggests from a randomized trial of tai chi for Fibromyalgia that there may be some hope for fibromyalgia sufferers. “Previous research has suggested that tai chi offers a therapeutic benefit in patients with fibromyalgia;” this single-blind study from the New England Journal of Medicine offers that while there is still more work to be done, tai chi may in fact offer more answers than previously thought.
What is Fibromyalgia: To understand the potentially alleviating effects of tai chi on fibromyalgia sufferers, you first need to understand just what fibromyalgia is. According to MayoClinc.com (2) “Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points – places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. “
What is Tai Chi: So for these folks who suffer from fibromyalgia, they obviously need an exercise regimen which is not going to be too stressful. Again, from MayoClinic.com (3) “Tai chi…is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. To do tai chi, you perform a series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner.” While some may consider regular stretching to do the same thing as an exercise like tai chi, there is one more caveat which separates this exercise from others; constant motion. “…Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.” A body in motion staying in motion can only help strengthen itself.
What Did the New England Journal of Medicine Study Reveal: The messages from the New England Journal of Medicine study were positive. Of the 66 patients tested, the 33 in the tai chi group had “clinically important improvements in FIQ (Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire) score and quality of life.”
While the conclusions from this study were positive, more research needs to be conducted. The conclusion of the New England Journal of Medicine study said as much: “Tai chi may be a useful treatment for fibromyalgia and merits long-term study in larger study populations.” While we wait to hear more from future results, one who knows someone suffering from fibromyalgia may wish to point them in the direction of tai chi anyway; as the results from the study clearly state, “no adverse events were observed.” So like so much else in life tai chi for folks with fibromyalgia can’t hurt; or at least not in so far as this New England Journal of Medicine study reveals.