How Can Tai Chi Help Back Pain Sufferers?

Ouch, my aching back! 

How many times have you said that in the past? Do you think back pain and age are related?  Although, it is typical to have your first “attack” between the age of 30 and 50, low back pain does become more common as we age.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 80 percent of adults will experience low back pain during their lifetime. Low back pain frequently leads to lost work days, and is the most common job-related disability. A sedentary lifestyle can be a major contributor, however, there are many possible causes and risk factors for low back pain, just as there are multitudes of treatments, both conventional and non-conventional.

A 2011 study investigated the effect of Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Back Pain Program in 160 subjects between the age of 16 and 70 with a diagnosis of “persistent nonspecific low back pain.”  Half of the subjects underwent eighteen 40-minute group sessions of Tai Chi, while the other half continued their current treatment. After 10 weeks, 75% of the Tai Chi participants showed significant improvement in their pain and disability.

In a June 2017 article, Teresa Carr reported a Consumer Reports survey sent to 3562 individuals with back pain found people working with yoga or Tai Chi instructors, massage therapists, chiropractors or physical therapists felt they received greater pain relief compared to those seen by doctors. In addition, the American College of Physicians issued new guidelines for back pain in February 2017, stating that “nondrug measures” should be the first line of defense.

Ms. Carr cautions that you should be sure your Tai Chi and/or Yoga instructor is certified, and advises individuals to seek out gentle classes, rather than the more strenuous ones. According to Linda Huang, director of the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association in Herndon, Virginia, you need to practice and learn the movements and breathing in order to truly benefit from your practice. 

In the November 2018 Consumer Reports article “Natural Cures Your A-Z Guide”, Hallie Levine states that research suggests that Tai Chi “cuts the risk of falls in older adults, helps with chronic pain, and may ease symptoms of dementia, depression, osteoarthritis and Parkinson’s disease.”  She also recommends attending classes to learn to position your body correctly.  As we all know, Tai Chi increases flexibility and strengthens low back muscles. 

So, there you have it!  And don’t forget what Ms. Huang said about practice.  Learning the sequence and the movements are not enough to get the full benefit.  It’s just the beginning.  Regular practice is the key