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Study finds tai chi eases fibromyalgia symptoms

Thu., Aug. 19, 2010, midnight

Tai chi eased painful joints and other symptoms of fibromyalgia in a small study of this ancient Chinese form of exercise.

Tai chi combines meditation with slow, gentle movements, deep breathing and relaxation. It can improve muscle strength, balance, sleep, coordination and, some evidence suggests, fibromyalgia.

Symptoms of the illness include fatigue, body pain, and tender points in joints, muscles and other soft tissues. It is most common in middle-age women.

The study led by Dr. Chenchen Wang at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston involved 66 fibromyalgia patients assigned to try either tai chi or wellness education and stretching exercises twice a week for 12 weeks.

Symptoms improved significantly for the tai chi group and little for the others, as measured by a commonly used questionnaire. Improvements were seen in pain, mood, quality of life, sleep and exercise capacity, and remained at 24 weeks after the study’s start.

The results are in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

In an editorial, two doctors and an Oriental medicine specialist from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston called the results “provocative” and “striking” but said that it’s unclear how much of the benefit is due to a placebo effect. The results need to be repeated in a larger study, they conclude.


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