tai chi

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.

Myofascial Release, Structural Integration (Rolf Method)

FASCIA  IS WHAT?

Do you know what’s holding your body together!  Think again, it’s not your muscles or skin.  They weren’t made to do that job, but the “fascia” within your body was.  By now you’re thinking, “What in the world is the fascia?”

Well, the fascia is a structure of fibrous connective tissue distributed throughout the body that surrounds our muscles, organs, blood vessels, bones, and nerves.  Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascia system. The function of muscle fasciae is to reduce friction to minimize the reduction of muscular force.

Does it sound like a well tuned state-of-the-art mechanism to you? It is, but it can go wrong!  For various reasons, including disuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together resulting in restricted muscle movement along with pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.

Symptoms may be:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Pelvic
  • Pelvic pain
  • Neck pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Chronic pain
  • Disc problems
  • Neurological dysfunction
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Adhesions
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Jaw pain (TMJ)
  • Painful scars
  • Scoliosis
  • Sciatica
  • Women’s health issues
  • …and more

Fascia Care:       

Move it: First thing in the morning roll around in bed and really stretch out

Stay lubricated: Drink, drink, drink! It works better, moves better and feels better when it’s wet.

Stretch your muscles: Keep the muscles from getting chronically tight.

Stretch your fascia: To stretch the fascia, hold gentle stretches for three to five minutes – relaxing into a hold.

Relax: Fifteen to 20 minutes in a warm Epsom Salt bath can coax tight fascia to loosen up – follow up with 10 minutes of light activity.

Use a foam roller: Be gentle and slow in your movements, and when you find an area of tension, hold sustained pressure for three to five minutes.

Respect your body: Even after your injury is gone, you may maintain that same movement pattern. That’s a recipe for an injury cycle. It’s better to take some extra time, see a fascial specialist, and join a movement class.  Don’t set yourself up for long-term trouble.

See a fascial specialist: Myofascial Release or Structural Integration (Rolf Method) practitioner.

Join a movement education class: The Feldenkrais Method®, Coordination Pattern™ Training, Tai Chi, Pilates, and Yoga are highly recommended.

Especially Athletes! and All Others!

Diligent practice of hip stretches—what in yoga we often call “hip openers,” as though they are key to unlocking thesecrets of the hips—can dramatically increase your flexibility and range of motion around the hip joints. If you are athletically minded, this can be a good thing. But as with many good things, too much can be overdoing it.

The key for athletes is to develop or maintain balance between stiffness and openness: a balance of strength and flexibility in the muscles around the hips.This balance can change depending on both the athlete’s body and on sport-specific needs.

Depending on your sport, too much flexibility can be detrimental to your sports performance, as it can reduce your snappiness. Consider, for example the stiffness a runner needs for efficient transfer of energy to the ground. A floppy runner, one whose hips sag with each step, will have to work harder than one who springs lightly over the ground. But you need enough flexibility to move fluidly through your stride, without a hitch that can lead to an overuse injury. Poses that mimic the running stride, like lunges, can help you stay flexible through the range of motion used to run, and hip stretches that target the external rotators can help avoid overuse injuries like Iliotibial Band Syndrome and Piriformis Syndrome.

On the other hand, athletes need vastly more flexibility in the hips for engaging in activities like rock climbing, curling, or playing positions like catcher in baseball or softball.  A yoga practice for athletes in these activities can look very different from a practice for athletes who require more springy stiffness in their bodies; athletes who need to take deep squats can enjoy the full range of hip stretches, including poses that move deep into flexibility.

Consider where you fall on this spectrum. There may be a very good reason hip openers frustrate you, or a good reason for you to love and enjoy them. Either way, the process gives you an opportunity to consider what you can change and what you can’t, and to practice focusing your energy on creating useful change and accepting the unchangeable.

For all those who would like to improve balance and flexibility, reduce pain, increase range and ease of movement, and reduce habits of tension, consider becoming a student of one of the following: Yoga, Coordination Pattern™ Breakthru Training, Feldenkrais Method® of Movement Education, Personal Fitness Training, Pilates, Tai chi or Qigong,