Tai chi is described in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) introduction as a “moving meditation” that originated in China as a martial art. Slow, gentle movements are combined with awareness and breathing. To watch a demonstration of a short form of Tai Chi Chuan click here. The health benefits of Tai Chi have been studied for a variety of conditions, including research funded by the NCCIH. Examples of topics and populations studied in funded research include bone loss in menopause, cancer-related issues such as fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia symptoms, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular function, and other types of arthritis.
A systematic review published last year in Complementary Therapies in Medicine discussed the effects of Tai Chi on quality of life for patients with chronic conditions. Included in the review were 21 articles meeting the criteria of being a randomized, controlled trial, including adults with chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, or AIDS, with Tai Chi being the primary intervention that was assessed by an outcome measure. Of the seven studies evaluated for the musculoskeletal system, conditions studied related to post-menopausal osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia. Quality of life questionnaires were completed by the patients using self-assessment forms.
Although the limitations in the study included poor recording of length of time of Tai Chi sessions, or lack of documentation of home program use of the exercise, Tai Chi was found to be a safe and simple approach that improved self-reported functions, both physiological and psychological. An additional benefit that is pointed out in this research is that Tai Chi requires no equipment or particular facility in which to practice.
Integration of practices such as Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, or other forms of activity are incorporated any many therapists’ treatment approaches, particularly when the therapist has personal experience or professional training in such approaches. Another way to learn how to incorporate useful skills from these types of approaches is to attend rehabilitation-directed training from someone who is both a practitioner of the approach as well as a therapist. The Institute offers a 2-day continuing education course titled Integrative Techniques for Pelvic Floor and Core Function: Weaving Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, Feldenkrais and Conventional Therapies taught by instructors who bring a wealth of knowledge about complementary approaches to rehabilitation. Bill Gallagher and Richard Sabel bring a wealth of experience to this course that is rich in lab practice. They offer their next course at the end of March in Boston. Click here for course details and registration.