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Tai Chi: An Alternative to Helping Patients Decrease Pain and Improve Function

  • Category: Pain Management
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Sunil D. Albert, M.D.

Many individuals dealing with chronic pain also suffer from functional limitations. These limitations often lead to further deterioration and can also contribute to increasing pain.

In many cases, physical therapy has been exhausted and medications may have been escalated to doses that are no longer therapeutic. This vicious cycle is seen very commonly in our patient population.

How do we find alternatives to help our patients decrease pain & improve function? The answer may lie in the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi.

What Exactly is Tai Chi?

The definition of Chi is “life force”. This life force can be defined as “bio-electricity”. Once this life force stops flowing, we cease to exist. Tai Chi is thought to promote proper flow of Chi allowing balance to be restored to the body. This balance allows the body to exist in harmony with its surroundings. The concept of Yin and Yang or negative and positive polarity can be reestablished with Tai Chi.

Tai Chi was developed thousands of years ago as a form of self-defense. It has, however in recent decades been utilized as a health practice. It is a gentle form of exercise that can help increase fitness, strength, balance, and flexibility. It is low impact and requires no special equipment. It allows for an individual to put each joint in the body through its proper range of motion. This deliberate, slow form of exercise allows it to be practiced by all age groups.

How Could Tai Chi Help Reduce Pain?

Recent publications have outlined the benefits of Tai Chi for several medical conditions including but not limited to: chronic pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease. Tai Chi has been shown to improve stress, sleep, and sexual function. Therefore, the health benefits for individuals suffering with chronic pain extend well beyond their chief complaint.

If we attribute this concept to a painful condition, such as an arthritic joint or chronic myofascial pain, we can draw similarities between Eastern and Western medical philosophies. The painful condition is caused by an imbalance between the normal resting state and the inflamed painful state of a particular part of the body. We attempt to restore this balance by prescribing medications, performing interventional procedures and utilizing physical therapy.

The goal for pain management providers is to decrease pain and help to increase function. We may be able to do this by encouraging our patients to participate in a form of exercise that is low impact and provides a myriad of health benefits. Why not participate in Tai Chi?

If you’re suffering from chronic pain, please take a few moments to request an appointment with us. National Spine & Pain Centers has leading, board-certified pain management doctors at over 30 convenient office locations who use advanced techniques to diagnose your pain and develop a customized plan to help restore your quality of life.