According to 2010 Global Burden of Disease, back pain is the number one reason for disability around the world. Although most back pains are not related to any serious disease, it can still be uncomfortable and, at times, be painful enough to force someone to miss work or restrict his activities.
One of the foremost treatments of back pain is medication. They are effective, but they also have side effects. To reduce dependency on these drugs and improve overall health and well-being, many people with acute or chronic back pain are practicing tai-chi.
What Is Tai-chi?
Tai-chi is believed to have been inspired by tai chi quan, a kind of martial arts in China. It follows the principle of soft, slow movements with the objective of healing oneself from pain and other diseases.
Like acupuncture, it believes that qi (the body’s energy flow) should flow uninterrupted in more than 18 pathways. If one of them is blocked, then the person develops diseases and back pain.
Tai-chi is based on three main elements, namely, movement, mindfulness, and breathing.
Based on these tai-chi benefits chronic back pain sufferers in the following ways:
It reduces the level of stress and depression. There is a direct correlation between pain and stress–that is, the more stress you experience; the more your muscles in the back begin to strain. Tai-chi can help reduce stress by improving a person’s state of mind.
It increases blood circulation. Some studies suggest that clogged arteries and poor blood circulation can lead to back pain as blood carrying nourishment doesn’t reach the muscles properly. This may then lead to cramps. Proper breathing in tai-chi may correct the problem.
Tai-chi is low impact. Tai-chi has more movements than yoga, but tai-chi still remains low impact. This means that the motions don’t add stress to the muscles and the joints. The exercise promotes balance, posture, flexibility, and alignment.
Everybody can do tai-chi. While tai-chi doesn’t appeal to everyone, it can be performed by everybody especially by men and women who are already in their eighties or nineties. This is very important since back pain becomes more common as the person ages.
It may be effective even on chronic back pain. Many of the chronic back pain incidences are managed with medications. However, a random trial conducted in Sydney revealed that tai-chi may work on chronic and persistent low back pain.
In the trial, more than 155 volunteers at least 18 to 70 years old with low back pain participated, in which 80 of them did 40-minute tai-chi 18 times over a period of 10 weeks. After the study, the volunteers then answered a questionnaire, which, upon analysis, showed that tai-chi alleviated pain symptoms and intensity by 1.7 and 1.3 points respectively. It also improved disability by 2.6 points.