Written by an Osteopath, Tai chi and Chinese Yoga instructor and a chronic pain experiencer (I refuse to call myself a “sufferer”)

 

Please note:

If in doubt whether your pain is chronic, it is best advised to get checked out by your Osteopath or GP.

 

Overview of 5 reasons why you should start Tai Chi to help with your chronic pain management

 

Tai Chi and Chinese yoga are LOW RISK/ HIGH REWARD exercise practices in chronic pain management.

  1. Chinese Yoga and Tai chi have both been shown to reduce stress levels and blood pressure
  2. High stress levels play a big role in common conditions like depression, anxiety and chronic pain
  3. Chronic pain has little to do with physical injury, instead is highly correlated to a prolonged state of stress (of varying causes) or emotional dysregulation
  4. Tai Chi and Chinese Yoga both cover physical aspects of movement as well as the mental aspects. Sometimes they are referred to as “Moving meditation”
  5. You know, when in pain, movement becomes difficult sometimes. Chinese Yoga can be adjusted to any level of mobility. Exercises can be done in a seated position and size and speed of movement can be adapted to your own comfort on the day.

 

 

 

Kathi performing seated Qigong to help with her chronic pain management

What can cause chronic pain and how Tai Chi and Chinese Yoga can help in chronic pain management (longer version)

Chronic pain is generally pain, that has not gone away or changed much in a course of 3 months.

 

As a chronic pain experiencer as part of cPTSD since the age of 3, I can tell you what a debilitating condition this is if it is left unmanaged.

 

My entire childhood, I had rib and stomach pains, severe headaches, shoulder and back pain as well as Tinnitus. Add many surgeries to the mix between the age of 3 and 21 and you have a volatile combination of pain causing conditions.

 

Tai chis has been a life saver for me in so many ways, I lost count.

 

When I first started, I didn’t know, that the pain and tension I was experiencing was caused by a “hypersensitive alarm system”.

I assumed I was simply broken, and something was wrong with me.

Now with 18 years’ worth of experience with Tai Chi and Osteopathy, I know much better.

 

I learned that the area in the brain, that generate this chronic pain, is partly the same area as the areas in the brain that control emotion and motivation.

(please note the obvious, I am not a neuroscientist, and there is always more to it, nothing is ever 100%simple, keep this in mind when reading on)

 

If you are a chronic pain/ tension experiencer yourself, I have good news for you.

 

Very likely, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, physically. It never hurts to get yourself checked over to be safe, but chances are, your body is just fine.

What isn’t fine is how your brain responds to incoming signals. It is on “guard” so to speak watching your back at all times, even when you don’t actually need it.

 

 

This is where Tai chi comes in for chronic pain management

 

Tai chi is a fantastic door opener that safely allows you to make positive changes to how safe your brain and body feel.  The safer they feel, the less pain they need to produce to get you back to perceived safety.

 

Tai Chi makes starting on these changes possible.

How you may ask:

 

  1. Tai Chi and Chinese Yoga can be done by anyone. The underlying principles is what makes it work, not being able to achieve the big fancy movements. The movement principles can be applied to anyone. Whether you are young, old, have movement restrictions or injuries – you can do this.
  2. All movements are done slowly and rhythmically. Slow movement is safe movement. The rhythm and smoothness of Tai chi are wonderfully soothing for you and your nervous system.
  3. Movements are synchronised with gentle, but deep breathing. Have you noticed that when stressed or in pain, your breathing changes? Do you take shorter breaths? Do you hold your breath? This is a two way street, by changing your breathing, you can affect the stress levels in your body. Sometimes it happens after a few minutes, sometimes it may take a little longer
  4. Sometimes we don’t feel emotionally safe. Have you noticed that when emotions run high, your pain changes or increases?

I’m sure you would have heard this or similar phrases before – “depression is living in the past, anxiety in the future and being happy is living in the now”

To be able to move slowly and precisely in the Tai Chi, emotional regulation becomes a natural by-product of the exercises.  When performing Tai chi you start to synchronize with your own body in the NOW. It automatically brings you back to the present.

 

There are of course more things that happen when doing Taichi and Chinese Yoga, but the above are some of the main ones related to chronic pain or a state of chronic dysregulation. Hopefully you can start to see how Taichi and Chinese Yoga can help in your chronic pain management

 

Will Tai chi cure you?

I wish I could say yes, but that wouldn’t be truthful.

The best approach to chronic pain is multifactorial, but Tai Chi is a safe and proven way to make a big difference in your life.

 

Start your healing journey with our online courses

Taichi and Qigong online course offer

Are you still unsure about how to best manage your pain? Get help in Lee Green (SE12) or Wilmington (BR3)

 

 

Additional resources

Greg Lehman’s chronic pain management workbook

Lorimer Moseley’s TedXtalk

Checkout “Tame the Beast” for more info

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