Monday, 23 April 2012

Tai Chi and Arthritis

Recently, I had an enquiry from a lady who wanted to know if Tai Chi could help her arthritis.  It was a good question!  I wanted to give a true answer so I put my researcher hat on!  Whilst I am knowledgeable about Tai Chi, up to that point I knew little about arthritis and wanted to give a true answer as inaccuracies in this case could easily cause permanent injury.

The answer was a resounding YES – it can help.  There are certain things that you need to know before taking on Tai Chi lessons if you are an arthritis sufferer.  They are as follows:-

·         You should not strain your knees.  Gentle work will strengthen the knee and improve the strength, circulation and mobility but go slowly with it.

·         Stance is very important.  The Tai Chi stance should not be too low and the knee should be oriented correctly.

·         Protect your knees – if the training hurts your knee at all, then it is time to rest.  Do not try to “work through” the pain barrier.

·         Avoid any movement that causes you to twist your knee whilst you are carrying weight on it

·         Diet can help.  There is much information available about the effects of diet upon arthritis but here are a couple of good tips:-

o   Sugar, alcohol and caffeine are unlikely to help your arthritis.

o   Green tea has been shown in studies to help – especially if coupled with Tai Chi or other correct exercise.

·         Meditation and Chi Gung practices such as “Microcosmic Orbit” and others can increase the amount of energy and relaxation and be beneficial.

·         Treatments such as Shiatsu and acupuncture have helped people.

The comments above are a summary of a discussion that I have had with various doctors, Tai Chi masters and arthritis sufferers.  They are all very sensible guidelines for a person who is thinking of taking up Tai Chi as a part of their arthritis management strategy.

After completing the research, I realised that I actually have an excellent and real source of information about arthritis and Tai Chi.

On Tuesday afternoons, I teach a senior citizen Tai Chi group.  I asked them if they had any stories about arthritis and Tai Chi. 

Nearly all of them said that they did get arthritis but since they have started Tai Chi with me the impact of arthritis on their lives has reduced significantly.

Seeing the group’s faces as they told me how happy they were with the fact that they were more mobile and suffering less pain made me feel privileged to have helped them.

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