As reported on CNN.com, “Previous research has shown that Tai Chi can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis and other pain conditions, but this study is the first controlled trial to examine its effectiveness as a treatment for fibromyalgia, which affects an estimated 10 million Americans.”
Ok, less pain is good, but can’t you just rely on your prescription pain medications? Well, yes, but there are two benefits to Tai chi that pain pills don’t provide. First, Tai Chi offers mental healing as well as physical healing. There is a strong meditative component to this slow martial art that focuses on balance and deep, relaxing breathing which offers real stress relief help to those who practice.
"Some people need the physical improvement; some people need more mental improvement," said Chenchen Wang, M.D., lead researcher. "Tai Chi can help with both."The second benefit of using Tai Chi as a natural health solution to pain is its lasting effect. To measure pain, the researchers had the study participants rate their pain symptoms, including physical functioning, fatigue, and mood, which were all then combined into a 100-point scale. After just three months of Tai Chi, the average pain score dropped from 63 to 35. Even more promising is that the scores remained relatively unchanged three months after patients stopped practicing Tai chi, suggesting a lasting benefit.
Many fibromyalgia patients long for effective pain management, as existing treatments like medication, sleep therapy and aerobic exercise simply fail to help in many cases. While this new study doesn’t answer the question of how Tai Chi appears to help fibromyalgia sufferers improve their pain symptoms, Dr. Wang says it’s likely a cumulative effect of the gentle physical activity combined with the meditative aspects.
To learn more about Tai Chi, click here. To see if there are Tai Chi classes or centers in your area, click here. (Note: many local fitness centers or gyms will likely offer classes but won’t be on this list.)