Everett Chiropractic Center Blog

August 19, 2010

Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia – What Causes Health Anyway?

Parry & Punch - Link to Everett Tai Chi Chuan

This was shared with me so I am sharing it with you. DrD

Copyright Health Magazine 2010

Doctors often recommend exercise for patients with fibromyalgia, but the chronic pain and fatigue associated with the condition can make activities like running and swimming difficult.

Tai chi — a slow, meditative martial art — may be an effective alternative, a
new study suggests.

Fibromyalgia patients who took tai chi classes twice a week for three months
experienced less pain, stiffness, and fatigue than a control group that attended
lifestyle education and stretching sessions, according to the study, which was
published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Tai chi involves a series of slow, fluid movements that focus on balance and
deep breathing.

Although it’s not clear from the study how exactly tai chi might improve
fibromyalgia symptoms, both the physical activity and the meditative aspects are likely beneficial, says Chenchen Wang, M.D., the lead researcher and an
associate professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston,

“Some people need the physical improvement; some people need more mental
improvement,” she says. “Tai chi can help with both.”

Health.com: How fibromyalgia is diagnosed

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.

The study included 66 fibromyalgia patients who were randomly assigned to take one-hour tai chi classes with an experienced teacher or one-hour classes that taught coping skills, pain-management techniques, and stretching.

Participants were also asked to practice tai chi or stretch on their own for 20
minutes each day, depending on which group they were in.

Health.com: 13 mistakes fibro patients make

After three months, Wang and her colleagues asked the patients to rate their
pain symptoms, physical functioning, fatigue, and mood, all of which were
combined on a single scale ranging from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating
more severe symptoms. (The patients completed the same survey before the study began.)

The average score among the tai chi patients dropped from 63 to 35, while the
average for the control group dropped by just nine points, from 68 to 59. Three
months after the sessions stopped, the scores had remained roughly the same,
which suggests that the benefits of the tai chi were lasting, Wang says.

The results were encouraging, as existing fibromyalgia treatments — including
medication, sleep therapy, and aerobic exercise — fail to help many patients.
“We need another approach,” says Wang.

Health.com: Medical marijuana may help fibromyalgia pain

Robert Shmerling, M.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the chief of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, says that he often recommends alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and massage, to his fibromyalgia patients, although some of them are skeptical.

“I would certainly put tai chi on the list,” says Shmerling, who co-wrote an
editorial that accompanies the study. “It’s difficult to take something that’s
as safe as tai chi and show that it has this dramatic benefit and not be
enthusiastic about it.”

The calming style of tai chi used in the study, known as Yang, may be especially
effective for fibromyalgia patients, says Kim D. Jones, Ph.D., an associate
professor at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing, in

“It works more on the parasympathetic nervous system, …the part of the nervous system that helps us feel calm and relaxed,” says Jones, who studies Yang-style tai chi and yoga in fibromyalgia but wasn’t involved in the study.

Health.com: 13 conditions that mimic fibromyalgia

Jones recommends that fibromyalgia patients find a well-trained instructor
rather than trying tai chi on their own. She points out that learning tai chi in a group may have its own therapeutic benefits, by boosting confidence, for instance.

Many community centers offer affordable tai chi classes, but experienced
teachers can be expensive and hard to come by. However, if future studies
support the benefits of tai chi, insurance companies might start to cover the
practice, Shmerling says.

Here is an example of the “Tai Chi Effect”



  1. […] Chi may help those who suffer from chronic pain. Tai chi — a slow, meditative martial art — may be an effective alternative, a new study […]

    Pingback by Martial Arts News 8.21.10 « Striking Thoughts — August 20, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

  2. very well layed out lots of information. have you sold your truck yet?

    Comment by Jake — December 9, 2010 @ 5:22 am

    • No, it still sits patiently in East Wenatchee waiting for a good home:-) Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

      Comment by doctordilday — December 9, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

  3. […] Tai Chi the Perfect Exercise? Fybromialgia Ian Cameron clip Zhang San Feng Depression Taoist influence Relaxation verses Meditation Tai chi […]

    Pingback by Index of Chiropractic, Tai Chi and other Wellness Posts « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — August 13, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

  4. I am a new practicer for Tai Chi, I think I am going to practice it for a long time, because it is very similart o Chi Gong, which I am practicing since years. The defference doe not exist, exept may be in the brolonging of the exercises, may be they are together a little bit slower than the Chi Gong. The differnence is similar to the differrence between a videoclop and a normal picture.

    Comment by Saleh Bitar — May 4, 2014 @ 2:06 am

  5. If you do a Traditional Long Round Hand Form, then you have done (among other things) Chi Kung; but if you do Chi Kung, you have not done Tai Chi, I would say.

    Comment by doctordilday — May 4, 2014 @ 7:03 am

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