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
We have developed a series of exercises, Qi Gong movements and t’ai chi postures, to expedite learning and accommodate and respond to individual needs and conditions. The following are a few examples of exercises that we employ before we begin the t’ai chi form:
Sitting in a chair, imagine your head and body are suspended from a string and that your spinal column is a string of pearls that are your vertebrae. Now slowly lift your hands and arms and pretend that you are driving a car. Relax your shoulders and breathe deeply into your belly.
Stand against a wall with the heels of your feet ~6” from the wall with knees slightly bent. Think of the natural “S”-curve of the spine. Although straightening the curve is not possible, imagine doing so: imagine pressing the back of the neck (the “jade pillow”) against the wall and, at the same time, pressing the lower back against the wall.
Shoulder width and root; standing quietly, suspended from a string, sink and relax with your feet under each shoulder with a natural width. Feel your feet spread from outside to inside, toes to heel and embrace your body weight as you find your balance. Use your breath as a guide towards calm that sustains that balance.
Bow posture provides a structural building block for learning t’ai chi’s postures and form. With either foot forward, find a strong root with 70% of the weight in the front foot and the other foot slightly toed out and shoulder width behind. With both knees bent, the back straight and the body suspended as if from a string, relax into the posture.
We emphasize the importance of bending the knees over the toes, slowing down our movements, listening to our bodies and doing everything possible to avoid injury or harm.
Indeed, our entire approach revolves around healing injuries, promoting health and well being. All our practices and classes are non-competitive. We strive to provide a safe, secure and friendly environment to learn T’ai Chi.
With practice, gateways to the wonder of t’ai chi will open for you immediately. Give it a try!