MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. MS support groups recommend T'ai Chi.
Tai chi. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMMS) reports that people with multiple sclerosis have used tai chi as a way to improve balance, and studies non-specific to MS indicate that tai chi can help not only with balance but with blood pressure and heart health as well. A staple of Chinese fitness, tai chi uses a series of slow, controlled movements to build muscle tone and increase flexibility. NMMS recommends tai chi for its adaptive nature. In fact, wheelchair tai chi is gaining in popularity in China and other countries.
-- Everyday Health, MS Exercise: Staying Safe, Dec. 2011
by Connie Brichford, Medically reviewed by
Cynthia Haines, MD
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In the opinion of the Committee, tai chi is a low-moderate cost, generally well-tolerated therapy that has produced improvement in multiple symptoms in one small MS study. Larger and more rigorous studies are needed.
-- Multiple Sclerosis International Federation
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Does Tai Chi/Qi Gong help patients
with Multiple Sclerosis?
Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 39-48Abstract
Tai Chi posture, has recently been shown in a number of random controlled trials to improve balance, posture, vigour and general well-being in a variety of client groups. These are problems commonly encountered by people with Multiple Sclerosis. The present study was therefore designed as a pilot evaluation of the usefulness of Tai Chi/Qi Gong for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Eight individuals with Multiple Sclerosis were monitored over a 2-month baseline and 2-month intervention. Statistically significant pre to post improvements for the group as a whole were achieved on measures of depression and balance. A 21-item symptom check-list indicated small improvements over a broad range of other self-rated symptoms.
A small 1999 study found that t'ai chi may be beneficial for people with MS. This study, conducted at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, examined the effects of an eight-week t'ai chi group program on 19 people with MS. People were accepted into the study regardless of the severity of their disability. T'ai chi improved emotional and social function and produced physical benefits, with a 21 percent improvement in walking speed and a 28 percent decrease in muscle stiffness. Comments obtained from participants indicated that the group experience itself was an important component of the program. The results of this study are promising, but there are limitations.
-- National Multiple Sclerosis Society
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Recent clinical studies have confirmed that tai chi produces measurable benefits in improving balance, lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. None of these studies involved people with MS, however. Make sure you talk to your health care provider before you begin tai chi or any exercise program.
Working on balance
The New York City-Southern New York Chapter has been offering a tai chi class for several years. Domingo Colon, the instructor, has been teaching tai chi for more than 25 years and has adapted the traditional forms to accommodate students at all levels of ability. Many members of his MS class rely on wheelchairs for mobility. Most have problems with balance.
Improving proprioception, which is our perception of movement and spatial orientation, is a central goal of Colon’s MS tai chi class. This sense of orientation can be extremely valuable to people with MS, who often face the problem of inconsistent perceptions of their sense of touch and balance. The tai chi philosophy stresses that balance is not only a physical achievement, but a mental one as well. Some of the most important types of balance can be accessed with sitting exercises.