In August this year (2010) the results of a clinical trial at Tufts Medical Centre in the USA involving T’ai Chi and Fibromyalgia (a complex chronic pain condition) were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 66 patients worked with a Yang-style teacher. They attended a weekly class and were given a DVD to practise with for 20 minutes a day. A comparator group were given stretching exercises and well-being education.
Their progress was monitored weekly. They found that after 12 weeks of T’ai Chi, practice, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than the comparator group. T’ai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.
Dr. Chenchen Wang, a Tufts rheumatologist who led the study, said she attributed the results to the fact that “Fibromyalgia is a very complex problem” and “T’ai Chi has multiple components— physical, psychological, social and spiritual.”
The fact that this research has been carried out and published in a reputable medical journal is a heartening sign that Fibromyalgia is being seriously addressed. Because it is a complex condition with wide ranging symptoms, diagnosis of which depends on patient’s descriptions rather than blood tests of the like, its cause and treatment have been the subject of debate. It is also good that T’ai Chi is being recognised as a potentially effective therapy, worth exploring and testing.
The TAO has a member who can confirm the study findings. Val Anderson has suffered from Fibromyalgia and Coeliac Disease since childhood but for 40 years it went undiagnosed. About 8years ago, soon after she was finally diagnosed, she started T’ai Chi at the Heaton club, after seeing Ferris Jerjis give a demonstration. At that time she was too ill to go out much and although fascinated by the T’ai Chi she didn’t think she would get more than 10 minute through the class.
She was amazed that the first time she attended she was able to do the whole class and that afterwards she felt a difference. She says “ With Fibromyalgia you feel half dead from coping with the constant pain. After that first class I felt refreshed and a bit more alive.” The calming effect of the class made her feel able to continue with the difficult journey of recovery and balancing her body after so many years of suffering. She started attending the classes regularly and found that she could ride through the pain to get the benefits.
Now she has been training for 8 years. “I was able to come off my medication, which has a deadening
effect and so was very important to my recovery. Over the years T’ai
Chi has helped me understand my body and identify postural problems and
where I needed further help. I have been able to gain weight gradually, which is marvellous as I was emaciated with the Coeliac Disease. I have learnt to deal with my hypermobility and build up my core strength so that I avoid triggering attacks of fibromyalgia.”
“One disabling aspect of the Fibromyalgia is the brain fatigue which stops you thinking. I find T’ai Chi calms the nervous system and has given me much greater mental clarity. So overall, T’ai Chi has made my life worth living again. I feel happier, stronger and have been able to move to a new and more fulfilling career.”