Tai Chi: How This One Ancient Practice Can Heal Pain

How Tai Chi can help you heal pain

When something hurts, don’t ignore it. This is your body’s way of getting your attention! It works so hard every day, so why not give it the gift of self-care? However, pain management doesn’t have to end at bottles and pills. Try tai chi, a natural way of healing.

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi: An ancient Chinese practice


Tai chi is an ancient Chinese mind and body practice. While it’s been around for centuries, the Western world is just catching on. Think of it as a cross between exercise and meditation. Slow body movements are topped off with controlled breathing and focus, a bit like yoga.1 Often, tai chi is called “meditation in motion” or “slow martial arts.”

The practice focuses on the qi, pronounced “chee.” This is the central life energy that flows through the body. Tai chi unblocks qi and helps it move freely, a must for good health.2


How Does Tai Chi Help Relieve Pain?

This traditional exercise is known to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and stress.3 But when it comes to pain, tai chi will save the day.

1. Arthritis

Tai Chi can relieve arthritis pain


Arthritis is the top cause of disability, affecting more than 50 million American adults.4 If you’re one of those people, consider tai chi.

In a 2009 study in Arthritis Care & Research, tai chi relieved pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Depression and the quality of life improved, too.5 A separate 2008 study found similar benefits for rheumatoid arthritis, showing how well tai chi can help joint pain.6


2. Fibromyalgia

Tai Chi can relieve muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue, affects about 5 million American adults. Roughly 90% of those people are women! Fibromyalgia often coexists with other chronic pain diseases, stressing the importance of management.7


In a 2010 study in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers assigned 66 fibromyalgia patients to one of two groups: general stretching and tai chi. Each session was one hour long, held twice a week for 12 weeks. The outcome? Tai chi patients felt less pain and depression. Additionally, their sleep quality also improved. These effects stuck around even 24 weeks later.8

3. Lower Back Pain

Tai Chi can relieve low back pain


Lower back pain plagues most of the country – 80% of us, in fact. Common reasons include weight gain, carrying heavy loads, and standing or sitting all day at work. The pain might also be “leftover” from minor injuries.9

With tai chi, chronic pain will be a thing of the past. The movements improve lower body strength and flexibility, two essentials of low back pain relief.10 This, in turn, gives your back a break by reducing the load on the lumbar spine.11


4. Neck Pain

Tai Chi can relive neck pain

Chronic neck pain is another nationwide problem, affecting 50% of Americans. Stretching and yoga have been shown to help, but with tai chi, the effects are even better.

For example, a 2016 study in The Journal Of Pain put it to test. Participants with chronic neck pain – or neck pain for 3 months straight – did tai chi once a week for 12 weeks. Pain relief was felt 7 weeks in. The effects were so good that they took 20% fewer painkillers than usual!12

5. Tension Headaches

Tai Chi can relieve tension headaches

If you’re one of the 45 million Americans who suffer from chronic headaches, tai chi might be the answer. It’s been proven to help tension-type headaches, the most common kind.

Traditionally, OTC painkillers are used, but they have downfalls. Tylenol can harm the liver, while NSAIDs can cause stomach trouble. Plus, relief is only temporary and it doesn’t even take care of stress.

As for tai chi? It’ll lessen pain and stress, which is thought to induce muscle contractions that cause headaches. Because tai chi is so gentle, it’s appropriate for any age. Work with a tai chi instructor to learn the best modifications. In time, pain and pills will be a thing of the past.