A ‘Shot of Tai Chi’ for Spinal Stenosis?
Nope, it’s not on the menu at Starbucks….you must be thinking of Chai tea! Tai Chi is the ancient Chinese martial art practiced for self-defense and for its many healthy perks. Although there are many forms of the art, modern practice in the west is most commonly associated with the gentle slow poses, executed with fluid motion, concentration and controlled breathing. The philosophy emphasizes harmony by unifying body and mind. The concept is that Tai chi affects proper flow of ‘qi’ or life force. The practice has been recommended for individuals suffering with chronic low back pain from conditions such as spinal stenosis, sciatic nerve pain, muscular strain and arthritis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, early research indicates that Tai chi is beneficial for various reasons including, reducing chronic pain, improving balance, flexibility, and muscle strength and reducing falls among older adults. All of these gains help to develop and maintain a strong back and core; increase flexibility; protect the spine from further injury and enhance the healing process. When an individual is diagnosed with a condition such as spinal stenosis or sciatic nerve pain, it’s important to determine the specific cause of the pain. If surgery isn’t required, a brief period of rest may be prescribed before beginning physical therapy and low impact exercise such as yoga, swimming or Tai Chi.
A Harvard University Health Publications newsletter differentiates Tai chi from other forms of exercise in that the movements are circular and never forced, that muscles remain relaxed, and that connective tissues aren’t stressed because joints aren’t fully extended or bent. The practice can be adapted for anyone across all levels of mobility.
The exercises are generally considered to be gentle and safe for older individuals with various chronic pain conditions such as spinal stenosis and sciatic nerve pain, but you need to check with your physician before beginning any exercise program, including tai chi. Lessons are usually taught in groups and it’s also very important to make sure that you have a qualified teacher to guide you in learning these movements with proper technique to avoid any falls or further injury.
Perhaps Tai Chi will provide you with a long term pain treatment and pleasurable exercise routine. An added benefit may be that you achieve improved health with a great flow of ‘Qi’ !
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