Tai Chi & chronic pain: Therapy for pain management

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The relation between Tai Chi and pain management is not new but there has been increasing awareness of the fact in recent times with renewed interest for the discipline.

This natural therapy for chronic pain is an old convention and has been practiced in China for hundreds of years.

Tai Chi is martial arts with a difference because it allows one to learn self-defense as well as leads to innate wellness.

The postures used are a natural way of mastering negative energy with renewed positive energy flowing around in the body.

According to ancient Chinese physicians, the negative energy flow through our body is one of the key reasons for chronic pain.

With gradual improvisation and relentless research, Chinese physicians were able to invent an art of exercise which is not only effective for maintaining excellent flexibility of the body but is also one of the most effective ways to cure chronic pain and stiffness of the body.

Once Tai Chi was established as an intrinsic part of healthy and pain-free living, experts continued with regular practice and intense research over the methodology of practice to perfect the art.

A stream of exercises was set in place as a part of the great pain management therapy. Presently, Tai Chi is practiced globally for its therapeutic effects and it is considered as one of the most popular health exercises.

Tai Chi can be practiced with different styles which make it a flexible therapy meant to suit the requirements of different types of patients with different health conditions.

For example, the Yang Style of Tai Chi is known for its simple movements of the body hence therapists often suggest this form for people with weak or feeble health.

The WU style is known for quicker healing of damaged tissues, bone joints and even damaged internal organs whereas the conventional Chen style demands robust health for people who wish to keep fit at all times and improve general health.

Ancient pain healers, as well as modern-day doctors, have both indicated that inadequate blood circulation and stiffness of joints are two predominant reasons for recurring pain in the body.

The movement of Tai Chi helps in improvement of blood circulation. The gentle and regular movement heals the stiffness of muscles which reduces pain and ultimately provides steady relief.

Qigong and Neigong movements are gentle and known for their efficiency of healing while being the easiest to practice among all Tai Chi styles.

However, Tai Chi is not an instant pain therapy. It works steadily and it may be some time before one can enjoy the benefits of Tai Chi.

This pain therapy is generally practiced in a group where the participants learn a feeling of synchronization with body, mind, and soul.

This, in turn, helps them to overcome the trauma and restlessness of mind due to their chronic pain issues. Although the learning effect varies from one student to another in a Tai Chi class, with regular practice every student benefits and feels its healing effects which lead to improved lifestyle and a sense of wellness.

The ways in which Tai Chi practice alleviates chronic pain are:

  • Mastering the art of relaxation
  • Improvement of power to cope and fight pain
  • Gradual control over medication
  • Gradual improvement of flexibility
  • Gradual control over stress and anxiety
  • Improvement of mental balance
  • Gaining confidence in self-management
  • Community feeling and growing social interest

Tai Chi experts have explained Tai Chi with trifurcated benefits which contribute to the total wellness of its followers. The three ways of wellness are:

  • Following and regular practicing of the adaptive exercise
  • Interaction of mind and body of the student
  • The gentle technique of meditation to overcome the trauma of pain

As per the dictum of National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the aim of practicing Tai Chi is to boost physical functioning and balance, improving concentration, and reducing stress.

Several scientific studies and research have found Tai Chi to have optimum effectiveness for the natural cure/control over the pain and in relieving the stiffness that is associated with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, as well as recurring low back pain.

If you notice, all these chronic disorders are related to extreme stiffness and rigidity which is difficult to overcome with conventional medication.

Typically, patients are administered continuous medication which in time gives way to serious side effects. That is why Tai Chi is such a boon for such patients.

They get relief from their pain, regain their flexibility and all without the fear of any untoward side-effects.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi techniques help in more than pain management. Regular Tai Chi practice enables the mind to remain positive at all times thereby lowering depression and feelings of isolation.

Often medications for various diseases lead to depression as well as other side effects like acidity, bloating, indigestion which can be a blight on healthy living.

With the gentle exercise formula of Tai Chi not only can these chronic disorders be reduced, several patients have also reported an enhanced zeal to live life better.

This is possible because the science behind Tai Chi is the essence of natural energy that makes up our core being. Tai Chi helps one restore the balance and form of this energy flow and leads to positive and healthy living.

Tai chi is now considered as a natural therapy for an extensive range of physical disorders, as a preventive as well as the healing option.

Studies have proved that it is helpful for treating chronic pain, heart ailments, gout, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cluster headaches, and mild as well as acute sleep disorders.

Tai chi is also helpful for the natural treatment of weak immune systems, pain, and discomfort for the central nervous system, which makes it specifically important for people suffering from chronic illness, depression, anxiety, or other stress-related conditions.

In medical terminology, chronic pain is defined as pain that has been sustained for more than three months with or without medication or is due to healing of an injury or diseases posts an accident or a surgical amputation process. The most common types of pain suffered by most are:

  • Arthritis
  • Lower back pain
  • Headache
  • Pain following injury
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)

Prime Tai chi benefits

Tai Chi has both long-term and short-term benefits. Besides pain management benefits it also leads to a positive frame of mind which enables individuals to perform and interact better in professional as well as personal lives.

Tai Chi improves stamina levels, enhances blood circulation, boosts lung capacity and leads to excellent mental clarity.

With regular practice of Tai Chi Movements muscle and bone, joints become more flexible and also increase mobility and maneuvering capability. Thus on a long-term basis, it reduces stress and panic that result from chronic pain and promotes a healthy way of living.

Tai Chi movements are as easy and comfortable for the elderly as they are for the young.  The chronic pain due to aging can be controlled by regular and moderate practicing of Tai Chi.

Tai chi practice improves stamina and keeps energy levels up hence is quite stimulating for the elderly people suffering from sluggishness and rigidity of advanced age.

Perhaps for this reason, Tai chi offers a unique balance of mind and body and creates a great synchronization for both body and soul for the seniors.

Leading experts have defined Tai Chi as the moving meditation where the entire process is relaxing and stimulating. As the prime focus remains on breathing, the postures create a unique inner stillness.

It keeps the mind quiet and the entire body muscles relaxed, which in turn reduces the intensity of chronic pains.

It works as an excellent stress buster – as people start focusing more on breathing, their physical movements, and inner strength, their worldly worries get diminished at least for a certain period of time.

Chi is a Chinese word that stands for energy. In the healing arts, tai chi is practiced for the promotion of the graceful, steady, and comfortable movements of energy through the body – almost like the mechanism of blood getting pumped through the heart.

Just after 20 minutes of exercise, one can feel more relaxed and a gradual reduction of the debilitating pains that hound them at other times.

How to practice Tai Chi

Tai Chi can be practiced at home but it is always good to start the practice in a group and under a trained and expert trainer.

The trainer may prescribe some typical movements for a patient which may or may not be applicable for other patients suffering from same type of chronic pain so blindly following others or practicing without knowledge is not recommended.

It is good to practice Tai Chi in the morning or in the early evening. Wearing loose garments and having some light food before the session is always recommended.

The movement of Tai Chi and the breathing process should be closely followed as instructed by the mentor in order to get the maximum healing benefits out of this pain therapy.

Long-term practice of Tai Chi leads to effective chronic pain management and helps patients become less dependent on medication.

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