New Study Finds Tai Chi Benefits People with Fibromyalgia

Health Research
Last Updated Jul 16, 2020
Health Research

A new study has found that Tai Chi may help relieve pain and aid healing for people with fibromyalgia.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that is characterised by pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and tender points on your body.  It is more common in women than men and tends to strike women between 35 and 60 years of age.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese discipline that integrates mind, body and spirit. Practitioners use meditation and deep breathing as they move through a series of continuous exercises, called 'forms', which resemble slow-moving ballet. Tai Chi is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine that works to improve the flow of internal energy (Qi) throughout the body.

What the study involved

The trial, reported in the 19 August issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 66 people with fibromyalgia who were split into two groups. One group underwent Tai Chi practice, whilst the other participated in wellness workshops and stretching. The groups met twice weekly over a period of 12 weeks, to partake in 60 minute sessions of either activity.  Participants were also asked to maintain their practice on their own for 20 minutes each day.

The results

Participants in both groups had their pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms measured on a 100 point scale. At the end of the trial, those in the Tai Chi group saw a significant reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms (with an improvement of 28 points), compared to those in the control/stretching group (which reported only a 9 point improvement). 

Study limitations

The researchers said the study findings showed Tai Chi practice can help reduce the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms, though there were some limitations. It has been suggested that more research into the benefits of Tai Chi for people with fibromyalgia needs to be conducted, and on a much larger scale and over a longer period of time. More research also needs to be done into how much Tai Chi practice will produce the best results.

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Originally published on Aug 30, 2010

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