Tai Chi Beats Stretching & Aerobic Exercises for Relief from Fibromyalgia Pain

As reported in the New York Times (2010), a clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.

It’s easy to see why Tai Chi helps with this condition. Fibromyalgia sufferers report pain points shown in the image above (from MedicineNet.com). Tai Chi targets those exact areas–the base of the skull, the shoulders, the hips, and knees.

Chenchen Wang from Tufts University, says it’s time to rethink our approach to therapy for Fibromyalgia:

  Despite the well established benefits of aerobic exercise as a core standard treatment for fibromyalgia, patients in our trial had difficulty adhering to the aerobic exercise programme. This may not be surprising—many patients with fibromyalgia find performing and adhering to exercise programs hard. Complaints such as “the floor is too hard,” “I cannot stand this,” “I’m too tired,” or “I’m in too much pain” were common. Despite encouragement by study staff, many participants missed classes, and attendance was lower than in the tai chi group. In contrast, people from the tai chi group continue to call our office looking for opportunities for tai chi training now that the study has ended. What we found suggests that patients may be more likely to enjoy, manage, and continue to practice tai chi, perhaps because it involves gentle, low impact movements with minimal side effects.  

Post submitted by J. J. Rein, Assistant Instructor