Tai Chi Helps Fibromyalgia! A Seminal Study !

Fibromyalgia is a common and very complex condition which is characterized by chronic and widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and physical and psychological impairment.tai chi fibromyalgia

Before about 10 years ago, patients who presented with these symptoms with told that they were depressed and should take a SSRI drug. These patients realized it was not depression, but they were told it was all in their mind. Within the last years the American College of Rheumatology has finally acknowledged this diagnosisand even given it an ICD-9 code.

In my office we see and treat many patients with this fibromyalgia. We usually use an interdisciplinary approach to helping them. We give the patients anti-inflammatory natural supplements as well as change them to  an anti-inflammatory diet. We also give them support for their adrenals and other stress organs, as well as liver support. In addition, the patients will get acupuncture and bodywork. Bodywork is especially important because often these patients have poor posture and "backwards breathing" and need to learn how to stand and walk sit and breathe in a correct way.

Now I am delighted to see a randomized trial of Tai Chi for fibromyalgia being published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. For those of my readers who do not know, Tai Chi is a mind-body practice which began in China as a martial art. It includes meditation along with slow, gentle, graceful movements as well as deep breathing and relaxation. The idea of it is to move the body's life force called "Chi" throughout the body. The beauty of it is that integrates physical psychosocial, emotional, spiritual and behavioral components. It was thought that because of its mind and body attributes that tai chi would be especially well-suited to the treatment of fibromyalgia.
In the study the authors conducted a trial to compare the physical and psychological benefits of tai chi with those of the control intervention that consisted of wellness education and stretching. The study was12 weeks in duration. In all, 66 patients were in the study.

In the study, all patients filled out the  Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ). They also used a sleep quality Index, as well as a Depression Index. In addition they used a Chronic Pain Self-efficacy Scale test. They also used the Short Form Health survey (SF — 36), which is a general measure or a persons complaints. In addition to be sure any results were long-lasting they also measured all the scales at 24 weeks after the study was completed.

When all the data was evaluated, it showed that the group of fibromyalgia patients who were in the Tai Chi group had very statistically significant improvement compared with the control group. The Tai Chi group consistently did better on all the various measurements that were taken.

Another nice finding is that at 12 weeks, more of the patients in the Tai Chi group had been able to stop the pharmaceutical medication that they were using to treat fibromyalgia. The number was greater but this difference was not statistically significant.

In my opinion this is a seminal study. The data is so strong that the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine approved it and has published it.

This sets a new bellwether for the management of fibromyalgia, and I hope that more and more patients with this condition will begin to practice Tai Chi.

On a personal note, as a long-time practitioner of yoga, I would like to see if similar results could be obtained with yoga classes instead of Tai Chi.

Do you have fibromyalgia? What have you done to help yourself? Have you tried Tai Chi?  Did it help? Do you have family or friends who could benefit from using Tai Chi to help address their fibromyalgia?.

Let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.


About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements:

  • Mary

    Hello Dr Soram- So so happy to hear that you will be teaching at UCLA– There is hope for the Western World of Medicine! And I do yoga to relieve the pain of my Fibromyalgia as well as take herbs from Dr Lobsang Dhondop and I use magnesium lotion as well as take Vit D. I also use CoQ10–all seem to help significantly. Read your book last summer and have been sharing all of the information and the book with family anf friends ( Hmmm. who did I give it to last?) Suggesting tht they all get their levels checked! Ordered some D for my 80 year old Mum too- and am always sending your link to friends to get the best D online! Take good care~~ Mary

  • Thanks so much for your kind words Mary! I finally got around to answering your comment. I'm delighted you are doing so well with your Fibromyalgia and the supplements you are taking. Best wishes.

  • I have fibromyalgia as well and have weaned off medication and started taking Vitamin D since I saw you on Dr. Oz. I also began doing tai chi exercises. This has reduced the pain significantly, but I still have occasional flareups. What are other supplements you recommend? I am so appreciative that you are getting the word out for all of us who were left in suffering by western medicine with no way out.