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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Benefits of Tai Chi for Multiple Sclerosis

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Tai Chi Improves Balance, Mobility, and Quality of Life for MS Patients, But Does Not Help Fatigue.
BY: Lisa Emrich

Credit: iStock

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease that disrupts communication between the central nervous system — composed of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves — and different parts of the body. The resulting symptoms are varied, including visual disturbances, impaired balance and coordination, weakness, loss of sensation, pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety, cognitive impairment, and problems with other bodily functions. Many of these symptoms can negatively impact normal daily activities — such as work capability, socialization with others, and personal care — which then lowers patients’ quality of life.

Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are used to slow down the progression of the disease, while symptomatic therapies are used to reduce the effect of specific symptoms. Complementary and alternative therapies — such as exercise, vitamins or supplements, meditation, yoga, and other mind-body techniques — are frequently used to reduce the effects of the disease and improve quality of life.

Mindfulness is a concept rooted in a philosophy that focuses on the present moment while maintaining an open, nonjudgmental attitude. Mindfulness-based programs — such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi — have been studied in small clinical trials to determine their effect on MS symptoms and quality of life for people living with MS. The results are mixed.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi, also called Tai Chi Chuan, is an ancient Chinese martial art that has evolved into a multiple-element form of exercise, featuring slow, gentle, dance-like movements that encourage deep breathing and relaxation, improve balance, and strengthen muscles and joints. I’ve heard Tai Chi referred to as “meditation in motion.” One benefit of Tai Chi is that is doesn’t require any special clothing or equipment. It is one of the mind-body therapies in complementary and alternative medicine that begins where you are and doesn’t push you beyond your abilities, but does encourage you to explore the edges of your comfort zones.

How does Tai Chi help MS?

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