One of the most common and yet incredibly painful chronic diseases, fibromyalgia, is a little-understood condition with 5 million victims in the US alone. Most sufferers are women, though it is not known why. And no cure has been found.
But now, a new study points to a significant path for fibromyalgia relief. A natural path. A path that brings new energy as well as relief from the tormenting agonies.
What is this amazing path? Tai Chi. Yes, that's right. The ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi.
The study (published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine) shows that Tai Chi relieved the pain of its study subjects, when practiced regularly.
The term t'ai chi ch'uan translates as "supreme ultimate fist", "boundless fist", "great extremes boxing", or simply "the ultimate". Tai Chi evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism. And it's timelessness seems to be proven again.
A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression.
The control group was simply given stretching exercises and wellness education, and saw much less improvement.
More significantly, perhaps, Tai Chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later!
One observer who had no stake in the test, Dr. Daniel Solomon, (chief of clinical research in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston), said, “This was a well-done study. It was kind of amazing that the effects seem to carry over.”
Another--- Dr. Robert Shmerling, clinical chief of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston--- said, “We thought it was notable that The New England Journal accepted this paper, that they would take fibromyalgia on as an issue, and also because tai chi is an alternative therapy that some people raise eyebrows about. Fibromyalgia is so common, and we have such a difficult time treating it effectively. It’s defined by what the patient tells you. It’s hard for some patients’ families and their doctors to get their head around what it is and whether it’s real. So, that these results were so positive for something that’s very safe is an impressive accomplishment.”
There is obviously an incredible amount to learn, and to profit from, in this exchange of cultural insights into healing.
One great impact, we hope, should be an increased mutual awareness, globally--- in the West, the healing arts of the East are often poorly understood, and regarded often in great ignorance. And that is a great loss indeed. And an absurd irony, in this day of the world wide web and global exchanges of ideas.
We sincerely hope that such studies are only a beginning!