Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA reveal that a significant number of patients with fibromyalgia responded well to Tai Chi, experiencing alleviation of joint pains and other symptoms. The study is published in NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine).

Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome of chronic widespread soft-tissue pain accompanied by weakness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances; the cause is unknown. It is a chronic (long-lasting) disorder. It is most common among middle-aged women. 200 million people worldwide are affected by fibromyalgia.

Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia include morning stiffness, headaches, irregular sleep patterns, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), dysmenorrhea (menstrual period pains), hands and feet may tingle or feel numb, sensitivity to cold or heat, and fibro fog (memory and cognitive problems). Click here for a comprehensive article on fibromyalgia.

Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan, is a combination of meditation and slow, gentle movements, relaxation and deep breathing. It is known to help with muscle strength, posture, balance, sleep, coordination – and now fibromyalgia symptoms. In China and some other parts of the world Tai Chi Chuan is seen as a martial art which is practiced for both its defense training and health benefits. Tai Chi Chuan literally means Supreme Ultimate Fist.

In this study, Dr. Chenchen Wang and team at Tufts University School of Medicine assigned 66 patients who had fibromyalgia into two groups:

  • One group took part in a 12-week Tai Chi program
  • The other group took part in a 12-week wellness education program which included stretching exercises twice weekly.

Those in the Tai Chi group experience significant symptom improvement, while the other group had very little benefit. The participants were given a questionnaire.

The Tai Chi group participants experienced improvements in:

  • pain
  • mood, depression
  • sleep
  • quality of life
  • exercise capacity

The researchers said a larger follow-up study should be done.

Written by Christian Nordqvist