Tai Chi for Joint Pain

Everyday you see people around in parks and public areas performing some slow moving martial arts movements, it almost looks like a synchronized dance. Well what you are seeing is Tai Chi. Tai Chi has been practiced for years in China, and is now regarded as a therapy, a preventative measure and remedy for many diseases and ailments.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi can be practiced anywhere and anytime. It is suitable for almost everyone because the level of exertion can be adjusted. It involves slow, gentle and graceful movements. It has been described as meditation in motion. Breathing is slowed and deepened, a focus is on visual and mental concentration. This allows you to relax and let the life force or ‘Qi’ flow throughout the body. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that disease is due to blocks or interruptions in the flow of Qi. All the time correct posture is emphasized, and therefore is creating a form of exercise that is gentle on the muscles, but at the same time giving you a good core workout.

What does the research say?

There have been several studies that have shown that regular Tai Chi practice has benefits for arthritis sufferers. There is evidence it can help prevent falls, and aid those with balance disorders. Practicing Tai Chi can help reduce the risk of falls considerably, it is great core and balance training.

There has been evidence of other general health benefits. Specifically it benefits arthritis sufferers and is a common activity undertaken due to its low impact nature. The weight bearing aspect of Tai Chi has the potential to develop strength without a lot of pressure on the joints, stimulate bone growth and strengthen connective tissue.

What are classes like?

Tai Chi classes are generally fairly small groups and it is quite common to see all different ages participating alongside each other. There are five different types of Tai Chi, the most gentle and the most suitable for arthritis sufferers is the Yang, Sun, Wu and Hao styles. People new to Tai Chi and those with lots of pain should avoid the Chen style which is a more brisk and active style.

Most classes actually blend a lot of these styles, but what is important is that you find a class that is at the right level for you, and you can do easily. You will then get the benefits, and allow yourself to progress slowly. You don;t want hard or forceful movements to start, and very little stress on your joints.

Classes will generally last about an hour, and can be done a couple of times a week. Warm up and Cool downs are always included and are very important. Classes are gradual and the teacher will demonstrate all the movements and individual poses. Attention is always given to breathing and posture. Check your local gyms for classes, or your local directory. It is a very popular form of exercie now and there is sure to be a class near you.

Why should I do Tai Chi?

Well Tai Chi is a great low impact weight bearing exercise that arthritis sufferers can get great gains from. It’s hard to find structured exercise that won’t have high impact through your joints, but still enable you to build up some base strength and ease the pressure on your joints. Strengthening the joints will ease pain and inflammation and lead to a much functional life. if you haven’t tried Tai Chi, check with your doctor to see if its suitable for you (although it really can be modified for anyone) and give it a go. As usual, along with your other treatments, it can have great benefits.