Tai Chi Shown to Ease Back Pain

By Jennifer Cuthbertson

This Chinese martial art practice is an effective self-care option for back pain

For those who experience low-back pain, it may feel like an endless journey to find a treatment that is effective. This is especially true for those who are looking for an alternative to over-the-counter and prescription medications. One alternative that is recommended by the American College of Physicians in their 2017 treatment guidelines is Tai chi.

Tai chi Explained

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines slow, movements with deep breathing and mental focus. It provides gentle exercise through stretching with one pose flowing into the next, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. It’s low-impact, so it puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, which makes it generally safe for most people – no matter age or level of fitness. Tai chi is also appealing because no special equipment is needed, and it is very adaptable – it may be practiced indoors or out, alone or in a group setting. There are different styles of Tai chi. Some emphasize health maintenance and meditation, while others place more emphasis on martial arts. 

Tai chi Delivers Many Benefits

Research show that the slow, focused movements of Tai chi coupled with deep breathing can ease back pain.  The practice helps in several ways that include:
  • Strengthening the muscles in the abdomen and pelvic areas that help support the lower back. 
  • Improving balance and flexibility .
  • Increasing awareness of posture when sitting, standing and walking. 
 In addition to helping ease back pain, Tai chi may provide other health benefits for people with arthritis, such as:
  • Decreased stress and anxiety.
  • Improved mood.
  • Enhanced quality of sleep.
To get the most from Tai chi, it is recommended that you perform the practice twice a week for 45 minutes to one hour. Also, it is important to note that the benefits last only if you continue to regularly practice Tai Chi.

Getting Started

There are many options to try a Tai Chi class. No matter which one you choose, make sure you check with your doctor before getting started.
Tai Chi classes are often offered at local YMCAs and recreational centers. A local community college, university or hospital may also provider classes. Check the Arthritis Resource Finder to see what’s available in your area.
 If you want to get started at your own pace, you can check out the Arthritis Foundation’s online video Tai Chi: Stretches of the Spine. And, if a continued at-home practice is best for you, you can order the Arthritis Foundation DVD.

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