Tai Chi For Pain Management

Tai Chi For Pain Management

Tai Chi is a relatively new form of exercise in the Western world but it has been used to treat chronic pain by the Chinese for thousands of years. Recently, researchers have studied the effectiveness of Tai Chi in people who suffered chronic pain from arthritis.
The exercises in Tai Chi are gentle and fluid. They involve a balance between mind and body that is inherently easy on the joints. There is no running or jumping or any movement in Tai Chi that puts added stress on the joints.

While Tai Chi can easily be seen as a practice that won’t make the pain of arthritis worse, researchers wondered whether or not the practice of Tai Chi would actually improve the pain scores of patients with arthritis. Other studies on Tai Chi showed that it benefitted people who gained an overall decreased level of tension, a better satisfaction regarding their health and an improvement in physical health.

Dealing With Arthritis

Arthritis and other musculoskeletal pain can cause significant debilitation in those who suffer from it and it puts a physical and emotional burden on the arthritis sufferers, their loved ones and on the community at large.

While there are medications for arthritis, they are not without side effects and some people just don’t tolerate taking arthritis medication. For those people and for people who only get partial relief from taking pills, Tai Chi is a safe and effective form of exercise that has been shown to decrease pain from musculoskeletal diseases.

Tai Chi: How It Works

People who undergo Tai Chi lessons and practice it regularly usually do so on their feet. The feet, legs arms and trunk move from pose to pose in a fluid motion, matching breath with motion so that mind and body work together to strengthen muscles, improve balance, and relieve pain.

It is a practice that is relatively free of side effects and can be done in the privacy of one’s home, outdoors or in groups. The exercises are distinctly different from the western practices of stretching and lifting small weights. No special equipment is required and participants only need to wear comfortable clothing.

Scientific Research

One study (Amanda Hall et al, Arthritis Care & Research, June 2009) was recently done using participants who suffered from chronic pain and disability due to musculoskeletal pain, such as arthritis.

It looked at the ability of Tai Chi to decrease chronic pain and expand on their quality of life and ability to partake in activities of daily living. The research study looked at several other randomized and controlled studies involving the use of Tai Chi in chronic pain. The studies together confirmed that Tai Chi is able to improve the level of pain and disability in arthritic patients.

Other Benefits Of Tai Chi

Added benefits to using Tai Chi to treat chronic pain is that it is an inexpensive sport that can be done at any time and that is considered enjoyable by many people who practice it. When it is practiced in groups, a bonding, and camaraderie adds to the benefits of this practice. When people are in a community of people all practicing the same exercise, there is an increase in sense of community and wellbeing that also affects the perception of pain.

Tai Chi also provides a wealth of other benefits including, lowering stress, depression, and anxiety, all of which are either as a result of, or contributing factors to chronic pain conditions or both.

It should also be noted that Tai Chi helps people cope better with stress, which is known to exasperate pain, so that it makes less of an impact in their daily lives. The stress response in the body, or fight or flight causes physiological changes such as elevated heart rate, anxiety, and nervous tension that can make pain worse and so alleviating chronic stress in those who have some type of pain condition is that much more important.

How It Works

What hasn’t been done is a placebo-controlled study of tai chi; only other practices of exercise and stretching have been done to compare Tai Chi. It is difficult, then, to tease apart exactly what makes Tai Chi so superior to other gentle forms of exercise. Researchers only know that it seems to relieve pain from chronic musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis better than other forms of exercise and Eastern culture has known this for thousands of years.