Tai Chi offered as exercise therapy to Fibromyalgia patients

Monday, 6 September 2010

Patients with a debilitating musculoskeletal condition are being offered Tai Chi at Frenchay Hospital to improve the management of their condition.

The ancient Chinese exercise is being offered by the Pain Clinic at Frenchay as a pilot project to patients with Fibromyalgia, as well as other with chronic pain conditions.

Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown.

Tai Chi classes are held once a week at Frenchay to help patients become gradually more active in a controlled way.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that Tai Chi can be an important part of treatment for fibromyalgia as it can improve physical and mental health, while minimising the effects of common fibromyalgia symptoms.

For example, tai chi can help reduce muscle weakness, widespread pain and joint stiffness.

Crispin Barker, a specialist physiotherapist at Frenchay and trained instructor for the Taoist Tai Chi Society, said: "Tai Chi can be practised standing or sitting making it available to people of all ages and levels of health. 

"The slow and relaxed quality of movement helps develop co-ordination and balance while the gentle rotation of the trunk and upper and lower limbs promotes strength and flexibility.  

"Tai Chi has been called a moving meditation as it also helps the mind to relax. 

"By practising in a group, participants feel a sense of wellbeing and the social contact helps to build confidence.  It is also a lot of fun.

"Tai Chi is helpful for many other conditions like back pain, multiple sclerosis, depression, CFS/ME, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure for the simple reason that movement is crucial for good health."

Cathie Bambra, 53, from Abson, South Gloucestershire, has suffered from pain for 40 years and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia three years ago.

She has been attending Tai Chi classes at Frenchay for six weeks.

She said: "It is remarkable, I do the exercises every day and I feel so much better, I can move like I have never moved before.

"Your mind goes into a positive space, your body flows and the pain almost drifts away.

"When you suffer chronic pain, you hold the pain in but with Tai Chi you let it go and that is so powerful."

Fibromyalgia Awareness Week takes place between September 6 and 12 2010.