Most chronic pain sufferers have more than likely heard time and time again how great the benefits of physical activity can be in regards to managing their chronic pain. Physical activity while living with chronic pain however is not always an easy feat. Depending on the severity of your pain, intense physical exercise even for as long as a few minutes can cause pain and discomfort. Although the long-term benefits of physical activity for chronic pain sufferers are great, a fear of exacerbating pain or potentially making the pain worse causes many who live with chronic pain to shy away from the idea of exercise.
Tai Chi is a low impact, slow and rhythmic form of physical activity making it ideal for people living with chronic pain. It can be thought of as a combination of yoga and meditation. Tai Chi originates in China and has a history dating back hundreds of years. Originally being a form of martial arts, tai chi has since grown in the western world, and is now seen as a form of meditation as well as a form of exercise. This is due to the purposeful movements involved in tai chi
The movements in tai chi are considered to be low impact which is great for someone who is living with chronic pain and looking to gain strength as well as participate in regular physical activity without putting strain on the body. In tai chi, the muscles are often relaxed as opposed to tensed up like in other forms of exercise. Movements tend to be circular and slow. The joints of the body are often kept in a neutral position, neither bent nor extended. Even those who are not physically active very often have been able to learn and participate in the art of tai chi with ease.
In a clinical trial, people who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia and who took part in tai chi over the course of 3 months reported an overall improvement to their quality of life versus those who were not physically active. Compared to their counterparts, 60 percent of the fibromyalgia patients who had practiced tai chi long term reported that their fibromyalgia symptoms had become less severe. They also reported better quality of sleep, increased energy, and better mental health.
While not everyone in the study group found a change to their pain when participating in tai chi, a large number of people did.
Another study conducted out of California focused on patients who suffered from arthritic pain. This study had found similar results. Approximately half of the participants reported a decrease in pain, a decrease in stiffness and improved quality of sleep. An improvement in balance was also noted in this study.
It is worth noting that the participants in the studies did not stop taking their regularly prescribed medication but instead, tai chi was incorporated into their pain management regimen.
Tai chi is a complex combination of many things, which is what makes it so effective. It is a combination of focusing the mind and putting distractions to the side, paced and steady breathing, and slow, tranquil physical movements. Tai chi works on a mental, spiritual and physical level all while still being low-impact and easy to learn which makes tai chi a great practice for those living with chronic pain.