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Tai Chi Can Improve an MS Patient's Quality of Life

November 12, 2015

The principles of Tai Chi are based on the ancient Chinese Philosophy of Taoism, which stresses the natural balance in all things and the need for living in spiritual and physical accord with the patterns of nature.

Many patients with Multiple Sclerosis have taken up Tai Chi, as it tends to be less stressful on the body, and it has numerous characteristics that can be beneficial to their disease progression:
Balance- The slow repetitive movements and the emphasis on maintaining an erect spine help patients improve their balance. In turn this helps MS patients gain joint and muscle control. This also will obviously reduce the patient’s risk of falling.

Muscle Tone and Strength- Because Tai Chi is done very slowly, it requires significant core and lower body strength. The knee is often flexed, which works the quads and the hamstring muscles. It helps the patient become more coordinated and improves their motor skills.

Relaxation and Fatigue Reduction- One of the main principles of Tai Chi is relaxation. The slow and deep breathing that comes with this exercise has a calming effect on the body. The mindfulness and energy flow throughout the body is definitely a stress-reducer.

Cognition/Memory- Learning tai Chi is about muscle memory and remembering certain movements so that they become fluid like riding a bike. Cognitive and memory regions of the brain are also worked and it is thought that Tai Chi can also impact cognition and memory in positive ways.

A study performed among women in 2014 showed a marked lowered incidence of falling due to balance and equilibrium issues when patients engaged Tai Chi as an MS intervention.  Another controlled study took place in 2014 where a sample of 32 MS patients were examined. A structured Tai Chi course was devised and a Tai Chi group participated in two weekly sessions of 90 minutes duration for six months, while a comparison group received treatment as usual.

Following the intervention, the Tai Chi group showed significant, consistent improvements in balance, coordination, and depression, relative to the TAU group. Additionally, life satisfaction improved. Fatigue deteriorated in the comparison group, whereas it remained relatively stable in the Tai Chi group.