As we age issues of balance and joint stiffness/pain become more prevalent. But a particular Chinese martial art is proving to have remarkable health benefits for these and other conditions. Tai Chi is a low impact set of flowing movements with focused breathing techniques appropriate for any age group and any ability level. Dr. Paul Lam, himself a Tai Chi Master and family physician, saw the potential for his arthritic patients and developed his program based on the Sun version. Produced in collaboration with the Arthritis Foundation of America, it is available through certified classroom instructors or in DVD form through his website. Studies have shown its effectiveness for all types of arthritis.
How does Tai Chi improve flexibility and balance and relieve pain? The Sun style has unique components to increase muscle strength and circulation, which in turn supports joints and enhances flexibility and healing in the affected areas. These improvements ultimately result in less pain. The program has the additional benefit of reducing incidences of imbalance and falling in older adults as it focuses on proper weight transference in either standing or sitting positions. Tai Chi has been shown to significantly reduce falling in adults 60 and older even when practiced only once a week.
May is “Arthritis Awareness Month”. Tai Chi appears to be a great tool for use with this syndrome and more clinicians are incorporating it into their practice. If you are a rehab professional, CHT, OT, PT, or Rehab Manager consider making it a part of your toolbox.