According to a new study, practicing tai chi would have beneficial effects on the chronic pain of patients who suffer from fibromyalgia, a common illness resulting in fatigue and muscle aches.
A real workout for the body and mind, tai chi chuan (or tai chi) is an ancient martial art whose practice offers many benefits to those who practice it. Inviting relaxation and serenity, it is known to promote muscle and skeletal strengthening, but also to increase concentration and improve memory.
It is therefore no surprise that tai chi has been the subject of several scientific studies that have highlighted its benefits for our health. A new study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reveals that tai chi would have effects as beneficial as aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, in people with fibromyalgia.
2 to 4% of the world population affected by fibromyalgia
Affecting 2-4% of the adult population and especially women, fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that can cause chronic diffuse pain, joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue, difficulty sleeping or depression.
In addition to the usual treatment, the practice of aerobic exercises such as running, swimming or cycling is recommended. However, many patients report having difficulty exercising with such methods, due to the fluctuation of symptoms that can prevent them from doing intense physical activity.
A comparison versus aerobic exercises
A team of American researchers, led by Dr. Chenchen Wang of Tufts University School of Medicine, investigated the benefits of tai chi in relieving chronic pain in people with fibromyalgia, fighting anxiety and improving their overall well-being. The team has undertaken the task to compare the effectiveness of this discipline with that of traditional aerobic exercises (brisk walking, cycling …), and studied if the frequency or duration of exercises practiced affected the health of participants.
The researchers followed 226 people on average 52 years old. 92% were women who had been suffering from fibromyalgia for 9 years. None used alternative medicines to relieve their symptoms in the six months preceding the study.
Each participant was randomly assigned to aerobic or tai chi exercises, performed once or twice a week. The evolution of symptoms was noted at 12, 24 and 52 weeks, while participants continued their usual treatment.
Tai Chi, a treatment for the body and the mind
It turned out that after 24 weeks, patients who used tai chi performed much better than those who had taken the aerobic program, and that they did it once or twice per week. The researchers also found that the effects of tai chi were consistent in all subjects and that no serious adverse events related to their practice were reported.
“Treatment of the body and mind using tai chi results in similar or better symptom improvement than aerobic exercise, which is the most commonly prescribed non-drug treatment, for various outcomes in patients with fibromyalgia,”write the authors of the study. “This mind-body approach can be considered as a therapeutic option in the multidisciplinary management of fibromyalgia,” they conclude.