Depending on whom you ask, back pain can be caused by a poor diet, a distracted mind or an injured body. Of course it can be more serious than that but fundamentally these are the sources of back pain. Most of Western medicine focuses on the body, and more recently through the use of yoga we have begun to embrace the mind as a viable cause for back pain.
There are some treatments for back pain that may tackle 1 or 2 of the three sources for back pain but the ancient Chinese exercise known as Tai Chi treats all of them at once. Dating back to the 12th Century, Tai Chi focuses on slow and deliberate movements.
Initially developed as a form of martial arts, Tai Chi is popular among women for self-defense, the elderly for its health benefits and even young children for its fun and easy martial arts background.
About Tai Chi
Unlike other forms of therapy taken from Eastern culture like yoga, the focus of Tai Chi is on tranquility and movement and in fact requires greater movement than the ever-calming yoga. One of the reasons physical therapists are beginning to recommend Tai Chi for back pain is that it doesn’t require jarring movements that can further disrupt the alignment of the spine.
This is one of the areas where many back pain sufferers get themselves into trouble. The doctor says “exercise can relieve back pain” so they strap on their sneakers and hit the pavement for a long run, then wonder why the pain has increased with each run.
There are three main components to the flowing bodily movements known as Tai Chi:
- Breathing — Deliberate and rhythmical breathing encourages increased blood and oxygen flow through the body. The slow breathing encourages the body into a relaxed state that calms the mind as well as the body.
- Movement — Measured and fluid movements re-center an off-kilter spinal alignment, improves balance and posture while increasing muscle strength and flexibility. The deliberate movements of Tai Chi also improve coordination, making you less susceptible to future injuries.
- Meditation — The combined elements of Tai Chi place the mind and body in a meditative state that will allow stress and anxiety to disappear. This element relieves any psychological and emotion stress that can be enhancing body stress.
Practitioners of Tai Chi believe the practice can even improve digestive function by calming an unsettled stomach. Additionally the focus encouraged by Tai Chi has been known to make you less prone to overeating.
Tai Chi & Back Pain
In general Tai Chi can treat back pain as much as any low impact exercise would, but a 2011 study conducted by researchers at The George Institute of Global Health found that ten weeks of Tai Chi exercise for those with lower back pain can improve pain and disabilities that stem from back pain.
Because Tai Chi is non-invasive, easy to do and most of all can be done outside, back pain sufferers are less likely to skip out on it.
More importantly however Tai Chi exercise can improve many of the small everyday things that lead to back pain such as poor posture, muscle tension and muscle imbalances.
Now all you have to do to start a regimen of Tai Chi exercises is to find a class or group to joint. A cursory search online should help you find a group that focuses on back pain, a group for the elderly or any other demographic to which you belong. Once you join the class you’ll begin to learn the different movements that you can begin to do on your own.
A few sessions and you can start performing these calming exercises in your backyard.
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