Tai Chi and Multiple Sclerosis

Patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can improve balance, muscle tone and reduce stress by practicing Tai Chi on a regular basis.

In an email recently sent by Priscilla Chen, wife of Grandmaster William C.C. Chen, it was noted that tai chi practitioners with MS benefited from this slow, meditative, and repetitive exercise. It was shown that regular practice showed benefit to patients who were afflicted with muscular dystrophy.

The article from Everyday Health was written by Elizabeth Shimer Bowers and was Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH stated:

“People can benefit from the coordinated neuromuscular style of exercise and the greater lower-body strength and stability,” says William Helm, BS, HHP, a tai chi instructor and chairman of the body therapy department at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego. Helm says. multiple sclerosis (MS) patients tend to compensate for dysfunctional body systems by relying heavily on others. Therefore, it’s important to strengthen joint position sense and gain muscle control”

Regular practice of tai chi enables the body to become accustomed to movement and the change of balance from one foot to the other while moving. Since the movements are practiced slowly the body relies on lower body, leg, and core strength. This builds muscle tone as the slow movements help the mind to focus.  When practiced under the supervision of experienced tai chi instructors the hamstrings, quadriceps, vastus medialis muscles among others all benefit.

It is important to recognize that effective tai chi movements tend to help the practitioner focus on energy flow. The mind can not be distracted by outside influences. In other words while practicing tai chi the mind must focus on movements, balance, and proper breathing.

Whenever anyone practices tai chi effectively they should focus on the energy flow instead of all the worries of the day; then the form becomes meditative and relaxing. Your mind becomes stress free and, consequently, all movement becomes calming, as deep breathing from the diaphragm increases.

In an article b By Jennifer Acosta Scott and medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH it was pointed out that meditation and regular exercise are among the seven ways that MS patients benefit from regular tai chi practice.They agreed with Elizabeth Shimer Bowers’ article that  chi seeks to decrease stress, improve focus, improve muscle tone, and helps develop balance.

Although it is evident by these articles and many other studies that regular practice of tai chi has many benefits, it is necessary for everyone to make sure that they talk to a health care provider before beginning to practice tai chi or any exercise program

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