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Originally published November 27 2010

Tai Chi really works to alleviate fibromyalgia

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The gentle Chinese martial art of Tai Chi is more effective at relieving the symptoms of fibromyalgia than simple stretching could account for, according to a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Aside from reductions in pain, patients in the tai chi group reported improvements in mood, quality of life, sleep, self-efficacy and exercise capacity," a research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center wrote in an accompanying commentary. "The potential efficacy and lack of adverse effects now make it reasonable for physicians to support patients' interest in exploring these types of exercises, even if it is too early to take out a prescription pad and write 'tai chi.'"

Fibromyalgia is a hard-to-define condition characterized by symptoms including severe pain, fatigue, stiffness, and trouble sleeping. Some researchers believe that it may be caused by the body's pain sensitivity becoming too high.

Because conventional medicine has had trouble finding effective treatments for fibromyalgia, many patients turn to alternative therapies such as tai chi or acupuncture.

The researchers assigned 33 adults suffering from fibromyalgia either to take a 60-minute tai chi class from a certified master twice per week, or to attend classes consisting of health lectures and stretching exercises. Participants in the tai chi group were also encouraged to practice for 20 minutes per day.

Those practicing tai chi experienced significantly more improvement in their fibromyalgia symptoms -- an average of 28 points on a 100-point scale, in comparison with only a nine-point improvement in the stretching group.

Tai chi was initially developed as a martial art but is also practiced as a form of meditative exercise.

"With tai chi you follow a series of slow, graceful movements that mimic the movements you do in daily life," writes Debra Fulghum Bruce in the book The Sinus Cure.

"The various movements require you to move forward, backward, and from side to side in a carefully coordinated manner -- flowing together in harmony, as though your body were doing one continuous movement," Bruce writes.

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