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Tai Chi / Qigong Saved Me from Fibromyalgia

By Carrie Lowry

Fibromyalgia for me was a slow starter and gradually got worse. It was clear to me that staying in bed all day should not be an option. Then I saw an article on the benefits of Tai Chi/ Qigong for Fibromyalgia and felt that this could be a good way for me to get back into living. I was middle aged and didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being miserable. I learned that it was important to get my body moving and just moving around the house was not helping at all. This was a real down time for me!
The common symptoms I was experience were:
• Muscle pain
• Extreme fatigue
• Sleep problems
• Bowl problems
• Depression

It took about 3 months before I could be diagnosed. My doctor tested painful tender points during an examination. He asked me about the exact pain I was feeling in certain areas such as over my neck, back, chest, elbows, hips, buttocks, and knees. These areas were small and much more sensitive than other nearby areas. The doctor also checked other points on my body that were not tender points to make sure I didn’t react to these as well.

Getting the diagnosis gave me some emotional relief because then I knew what I was dealing with. I’m big on research, so I got busy learning what I could do for myself. One of the important things I learned was that I needed to move. Yuck, just the thought of it at first made me cringe!

The research showed me that Tai Chi and Qigong are two mind-body practices that originated in ancient china and have been practiced there for thousands of years. People of almost any age or condition can participate.

One of the results of doing Tai Chi and Qigong are heightened feelings of well-being along with a variety of other health benefits such as:

Boost in energy
• Decreased pain and stiffness
• Better sleep
• Better physical and mental health
• Feeling better allows me to be more active – helps with depression

The research at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston reveal that a significant number of patients with fibromyalgia responded well to Tai Chi, experiencing alleviation of joint pain and other symptoms. This study is published in New England Journal of Medicine. I’ve also learned that trials have shown there were better results with Tai Chi / Qigong than reported in trials of drug treatments for fibromyalgia.

I was motivated and really engaged and after about two months started to feel much better. Improvement was gradual, but steady. Seeing the other students in my class, who I now consider friends, has also given me something to look forward to. My experience with Tai Chi / Qigong has been very positive, so I highly recommend it to all those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Check with your doctor who, I’m sure, will recommend that you do gentle exercises. Tai Chi is perfect for this.

I now understand why Tai Chi / Qigong have lasted for thousands of years in China. It’s greatly helping me and my friends in so many ways.

Join one of Crystal Klein’s 4 weekly classes offered at Twin Ponds Integrative Health Center of the Lehigh Valley, located at 628 Twin Ponds Rd., Breinigsville, PA. Call 610-395-3355 for more information.

Stress Solutions – Where’s Your Tiger?

By Meg Deak MCAT, LPC

Stress is a just fact of life, right? Just muscle through it and keep going, because you’re too busy and don’t have time to relax, right?  Well, stress can make us feel like there’s a tiger in the room. You may even be so used to the tiger, that feeling becomes normal. It’s really important to take the time to activate your relaxation response – send that tiger packing.

It’s easy to forget or ignore the damage the tiger can do. Remember stress brings hormones, like cortisol and adrenalin – these are for short term use, and not supposed to be constant. You owe it to yourself and your family to deal with the tiger.

About Stress

Let’s talk about your nervous system. You’ve got a

  • central nervous system
  • brain
  • spinal cord
  • peripheral system − all the nerve connections from everywhere else that create pathways to communicate with your brain

Breaking it down further, you have an autonomic nervous system (think automatic) that keeps the show running, things like:

  • breathing
  • heart rate
  • digestion

One part of the autonomic system, called sympathetic, is switched on under pressure – the tiger is in the room; the other part, parasympathetic, switches on when we feel safe and calm – the tiger has left the building.

When the tiger is in the room, heart rate and blood pressure sore, muscles contract and we consume a lot of oxygen – stress for sure!

Once safe, the switch is flipped, and the system:

  • lowers heart rate and blood pressure
  • relaxes muscles
  • decreases oxygen consumption (the heart becomes more efficient)

Thinking becomes clearer; productivity and creativity increase – in a big way.

Our tigers can take the form of work and family stress, financial worry and chronic, troublesome thoughts, which often make us angry, anxious and reactive. Some tigers don’t leave the building – ever.  The switch can’t flip…unless we actively flip it.  Sometimes, we need to learn or relearn how to flip the switch – to activate the relaxation response.

Activate Your Relaxation Response

One really pleasant way to retrain your brain and autonomic nervous system to activate the relaxation response is through Vibroacoustic Therapy (VAT) & Brainwave Entrainment, which uses the vibrations of sound to lull your body into a state of deep relaxation.  Over time, you can “remember” the feeling and recreate it – you can flip the switch.

With VAT and Brainwave Entrainment you can feel your muscles relax as you sit on a zero-gravity chair. As a special CD plays, you feel the vibrations from the chair, hear the sounds from ear phones, and see the vibrations as special glasses transform the sounds into mandala-like patterns of light. Your mind begins to quiet, as this whole experience takes your brain and nervous system into a deeply-relaxed, healing state.

Stress is a fact of life, yes, but to muscle through causes dis-ease and reduces productivity.  Are you really too busy to manage your tiger?

Meg Deak,  MCAT, LPC specializes in the management of stress, anxiety and emotional overwhelm.

For a free 20 minute complementary consultation including a vibroacoustic experience, Call us at 610-395-3355, today!

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Incorrect Walking: Stop Long-Term Damage

By Betsy Wetzig, BA

Pain associated with the feet, knees, hip and back is often caused by the habitual imprint of walking incorrectly. We can spend lots of money getting adjustments from health practitioners, and it will help; fundamentally, if we don’t stop long-term damage and continue to walk incorrectly, in a way that caused us the problems in the first place, then the condition will reappear.  It is even worse for all the people who just medicate the pain, and accept it as part of getting old or old sports injuries.

Worse still, it is not just pain we have to worry about.  Real damage is being done by many people because of the way they walk and you may be one of them.  For just one example, it can cause hip damage.  As Exercise Physiologist, Vreni Gurd, “…I  frequently see this same faulty walk pattern (overuse of the hip flexors) in those that have had or are about to have hip replacement surgery.  I think it is possible that overuse of the hip flexors during gait may pull the femur slightly forward in the acetabulum, potentially creating a wear problem leading to the need for hip replacements.” Milton Trager used to call this faulty walk the sit walk and it is caused by the misuse of the four Coordination Patterns that organize our walk, especially in this case the Swing Pattern.  In his Mentastics work, Trager applied an exercise which happened to be in the Swing Coordination Pattern to fix it.

As Vreni Gurd explains, “We can improve our walk by exercises that will help us to release our hip flexors and position our hips so that they will rotate more easily.  However, to fix our total walk, we need to fix our whole walk and our whole walk is a coordination of all our body parts.”  More is needed.  We need to learn how to loosen, lengthen, strengthen and coordinate our muscle/joint systems. The motion of the neck bones and weight motion of our head do affect the way the ankle is working and vice versa.

By trying to fix your walk partially by doing such things as putting your head in a certain place, holding your stomach flat, or pulling back your shoulders, you are usually doing more harm than good. Fortunately, the body-movement-mind system has a built-in way to function ergonomically.

So, why doesn’t this corrective system just kick in and fix us?  Well, our coordination system works something like the hard drive on a computer along with possible “apps.”  The hard drive keeps the ergonomic functions ready, but the habituated apps can easily get in the way. You might get a coordination app because you were in a cast for a while, so your body adjusted your balance and movement to accommodate it, but when the cast comes off, it is easy for pieces of this app to remain. Your body has a new habit of walking.  Perhaps you keep your weight shifted, or you don’t re-synchronize your gate.  Or you might also have a stress or pain reaction and get into the habit of living with tight ribs.  The apps that were useful for a while no longer serve us well, but we don’t know they exist or how to turn them off.  There are hundreds of reasons we put the apps on.

The good news is that you can clean up your “computer” and get back to the ergonomic hard drive through the correct use of the Coordination Patterns

You can do simple easy exercises and the principles of using the Patterns to optimize your walk and:

  •  Improve body mechanics, and the way you move – walk, sit, play sports, etc.
  • Reduce or eliminate joint/muscle pain, and support healing
  • Learn how to deeply relax, and live in a more relaxed ergonomic way
  • Use correct breathing to enhance your movement abilities
  • Learn to easily loosen, lengthen, strengthen and coordinate muscles/joints
  • …even use physical exercises to improve mental abilities.

Isn’t it time for you to fix your walk and stop long term damage from incorrect walking?  Coordination Pattern Training is the easy answer.  Have your walk analyzed today!

Private Sessions, Classes, and Workshops available.

Injury Prevention & Walking Restoration Workshop

Saturday, March 28th, 9:00 am to Noon, $45 (2 for $100)

Betsy Wetzig, international presenter, movement researcher, and dancer-choreographer, is founder and director of Coordination Pattern™ Training, Psyche-Soma Dynamics, and Full Potential Learning. Her work on Leadership Training includes co-authorship of Move to Greatness: Four Essential Energies for a Whole and Balanced Leadership and co-creation of the FEBI® (Focus Energy Balance Indicator).  She has created DVD “Coordination Pattern™ Training in Support of Tai Chi” with Tai Chi master Bill Newman.  Her work includes training for Pilate teachers, InterPlay Leaders, body workers, athletes, dancers and people who want to move ergonomically.