Tai Chi has many benefits, but can it be helpful in the treatment of lower back pain in seniors?
Seniors and Lower Back Health
Medical research shows that tai chi is a valuable tool for spine health. There are specific exercises used in tai chi that have a positive impact on lower back pain.
Tai Chi began in the 13th century in China, it consists of slow and relaxed physical movements, combined with deep breathing patterns. Some may even call it “moving meditation.” Tai chi has the benefits of relieving low back pain because it balances the flow of bioenergy called “chi.”
How “The Flow” Can Heal You
According to ancient Chinese medicine, imbalance in energy flow makes the body more susceptible to injury and illness. Practicing tai chi regularly can balance the flow of energy leading to increased health. Even western medicine believes that physical movement can result in accelerated healing.
Different Practices of Tai Chi
There are many tai chi variations. The five major styles are:
The Yang family style of tai chi improves flexibility by expanding and contracting the body using big, exaggerated movements executed slowly and gracefully.
Wu style tai chi is unique in its emphasis on the extension of the body by leaning forward and backward rather than remaining centered, as one does in the other styles of tai chi. The back leg serves as a counterbalance, allowing for added extension without losing balance.
Chen style tai chi is characterized by its explosive movements including jumps, kicks and strikes. Silk reeling—spiral movements that flow from the feet to the hands—is the foundation of Chen style tai chi. Low, powerful stances develop strength and agility.
Sun style tai chi incorporates unique footwork and gentle, flowing, circular hand movements. With its smooth, fluid movements and swift steps, Sun style tai chi mimics a graceful dance.
Hao is a more advanced style of tai chi. With a strong focus on controlling the movement of qi (internal force) this style is not recommended for beginners.
Seniors Can Get Involved in Tai Chi Today
The regular practice of tai chi, either alone or in addition to other therapies, significantly reduced pain and disability associated with low back pain. It was found to be safe and inexpensive when compared to some very expensive medical therapies. Continued practice beyond the 12 weeks also freed the participants from needing maintenance medical therapies.
Tai chi instruction can be found at health clubs, park districts and even hospitals and medical centers. It has moved from an unusual form of exercise from the exotic Orient to mainstream medicine.
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