How Tai Chi Helps To Ease Chronic Pain
Chronic pain plagues millions of Americans and even more people worldwide. Typically the pain results from specific conditions, such as, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, and various back conditions. Not to mention migraines, headaches and everyday muscle aches and pains.
Dealing with pain is no picnic, many find that it has a huge negative impact on all aspects of their lives. What is the solution? There are several, and while conventional medicine has its set of remedies, there are also alternative, natural ways to help with pain management.
These include: acupuncture, hypnosis, exercise, herbalism and tai chi.
What is Tai Chi?
Having originated in China about three centuries ago, Tai Chi is a traditional exercise that involves a combination of martial arts movements and breathing techniques. To date, Tai Chi has become a very popular form of complementary therapy used to alleviate pain, specifically benefitting those who suffer from chronic back pain, neck pain, and arthritis.
Tai Chi consists of broader degree of movements, unlike other healing exercises such as yoga, but still creates relatively low impact as compared to aerobic exercises, making it an ideal option for those who can’t engage in extreme movements. It allows the patient to combat pain and stiffness without the unnecessary toll on the muscles, joints, and spine.
What is Chronic Pain?
Medically speaking, chronic pain is pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks. No matter what the cause of pain is, if the duration extends for over a period of months to years, then the pain is considered to be chronic. Chronic pain can be mild to severe, on and off, and can be simply annoying to debilitating.
The pain receptors of the brain perceive pain as a signal that something is off with the body. Whether it’s from an underlying disease, infection, or injury, feeling pain, especially for prolonged periods, should not be taken lightly, because it is your own body telling you that something is wrong.
It has been strongly believed that stress and anxiety are intimately connected with pain. With high levels of stress, the production of our body’s natural painkillers is reduced.
Furthermore, with the presence of stress, whether from extrinsic factors or from the pain itself, can intensify the pain sensation, creating what is known as a vicious pain cycle. Tai Chi aims to combat stress that would ultimately reduce or banish pain.
Three Components of Tai Chi
Tai Chi involves slow and deliberate movements, which aim to improve posture, balance, coordination, and alignment. It also increases strength, stamina, and flexibility.
Tai Chi incorporates breathing techniques that are focused and rhythmical, which improves circulation of oxygenated blood to the brain and other parts of the body.
During Tai Chi, you will enter a meditative state combined with breathing techniques and movements, which aim to reduce anxiety and stress levels, the main culprit of many medical conditions associated with pain.
Benefits of Tai Chi
Aside from relief of chronic pain, regular Tai Chi sessions can help achieve the following benefits:
• Promotes relaxation
• Patients are taught how to cope with pain
• Decreases pain levels, and thus prevents reliance on pain medications
• Decreases stress and calms the mind
• Improves coordination and balance
• Improves posture
• Increases range of motion
• Safe and non-invasive
• Relatively cheap procedure
• A low impact exercise that can be tolerated by those suffering from severe pain, such as arthritis
What to Expect During Your Appointment?
Before beginning your session, it is important to start with a gentle warm up. In fact, this is important in any type of exercise to prevent injuries from sudden movement. Then proceeding with the exercise itself should be gradual, working on different areas of the body and focusing on specific parts as necessary.
Usually, the classes vary, involving sitting, standing, and moving positions as you can tolerate. At the end of each session, you can expect exercises that are aimed specifically at relaxation and at releasing negative emotions such as fear and anger.
Make sure you eat a light meal before your appointment to avoid distraction from hunger. However, don’t eat too much as it could upset your stomach as well. Be sure to wear loose clothing and flat shoes to be able to move about freely and comfortably.