At least 90% of people are going to suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.60% of that number will suffer recurrent back pain. No matter the cause of back pain, these people will often experience weak stabilizer muscles. Scientific research has identified that strong stabilizer muscles will prevent any instances of back pain and hasten recovery in the event of an accident. Well, Tai Chi has become one of the best ways to relieve back pain.
Research and Investigation on Tai Chi and Back Pain Relief
A new survey conducted by Consumer Reports has identified that over 3500 people who have suffered from back pain in the last 3 years have found relief from Tai Chi. 90% out of all the respondents who have used Tai Chi for relief from back pain as well as yoga and similar exercises, actually found it very helpful. Researchers in the George Institute Of Global Health conducted a study in 2011 in the same subject. It was identified that people with lower back pain can find relief and recover from disabilities from such an injury after trying out Tai Chi for 10 weeks.
Research has identified that any weak or vulnerable bones with poor support from muscles and ligaments will be affected by pathological, physiological or biochemical changes. Many healthcare professionals have suggested Tai Chi as well as other physical exercises with low impact. These are meant to strengthen your joints and bones and alleviate all the symptoms of back pain. They are the best alternative to pharmacological or surgical agents that are used in western medicine to handle back pain.
What is Tai Chi? How It Works?
It is an old Chinese exercise that has been practiced for many years. However, recently it has picked up popularity because it has been recommended for back and neck pain relief. Although there are numerous methods of relieving back pain, many people with the condition are also looking for other alternatives that can provide the best results.
One of the principles of using tai chi for back pain relief is strengthening the back muscle stabilizers. The key here is having an upright posture, using the pelvic floor as well as the transverse abdominus muscles to exercise the stabilizer and also using abdominal breathing. With so much involvement of the muscles, tai chi has proven to work perfectly for relieving back pain. It is a slow motion, low impact mind and body exercise that combines various activities such as meditation, breath control and strong movements that that strengthen and stretch muscles.
Tai chi has been practiced for thousands of years and focuses on tranquility and movement. It is quite different to other forms of therapy originating from the Eastern culture such as yoga. Note that, tai chi actually requires more movement that the calm yoga practices. It has become popularly recommended by physical therapists for relieving back pain for many reasons. For instance, it doesn’t involve any jarring movements that will disrupt the alignment of the spine any further.
The 3 key components involved in tai chi include the following:
- Movement – Here, there are fluid and slow movements that will improve the body’s posture, alignment, coordination, flexibility, stamina, strength and balance. Many of the benefits of this ancient practice are consistent with other low impact forms of exercises. However, there is always the benefit of improved balance, posture and alignment.
- Breathing – Here, there are rhythmical and deliberate breathing exercises which encourage proper flow of blood and oxygen through the entire body. With the slow breathing, your body will delve into a relaxed state which will calm the entire body and mind.
- Meditation/State Of Mind – Anxiety will definitely make your back pain worse. Note that, for many people, especially those with chronic and recurrent back pain, the cause of the pain might have disappeared but the pain itself persists. Basically, it’s a phantom pain because the brain has developed a habit of delivering pain signals. Therefore, with tai chi, there is proper training of the body and mind making them integrated and stronger. Therefore, it is one of the best ways of handle the mental aspects associated with back pain.
Why is Tai Chi Good for Back Pain? ( Health Benefits of Tai Chi )
Some of the health benefits of tai chi for back pain include the following:
- It is relatively inexpensive
- There is no use of expensive equipment
- It can be practiced anywhere
- It is very gentle on the spine
- It is a non-invasive procedure
- It is effortless and can be done outdoors
- The practice will improve coordination, balance, muscle strength, flexibility and stamina.
- It strengthens pelvic area and abdominal muscles allowing proper support to the lower back.
- It improves regular things that might lead to back pain such as muscle tension, poor posture and muscle imbalances.
- It brings more awareness about your posture when you’re walking, standing and sitting.
- It will improve your health and overall quality of life
- It improves internal harmony allowing you to relax
- You can enjoy the gentle tai chi movements
- It improves overall confidence
- It improves body awareness and relieves stress
- It reduces social isolation especially if you’re doing tai chi in a public setting
- It will increase your circulation allowing your body to get more nutrients and oxygen necessary for repairing and healing aching muscles.
Research has also identified that the practice can be used to benefit people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, tension headaches, fibromyalgia or any other pain conditions.
How Can You Learn Tai Chi for Back Pain Relief
- Join a tai chi class with a back pain certified instructor. Alternatively, you can try out the step by step instructional DVD provided by Dr. Lam.
- Don’t quit immediately rather you should take time to understand the important principles of the practice. That way, you can progress steadily and get numerous health benefits associated with it.
- If you haven’t found a class, you should think about looking for a teacher. Look for local classes in your area and try practicing it at home with some free videos or hire someone to teach you at your home.
To get the benefits of the practice your body needs to learn proper coordination and balance and practicing every day is important.
7 Popular Tai Chi Exercises for Relieving Back Pain
Here you need to practice perfectly controlled body movements while checking your breathing and heart rate. It works perfectly to strengthen your lower back muscles. Trying out the stretches every day will reduce back pain and boost overall fitness.
1. Circle The Globe – Hold your arms in front of you with the right hand on top while the other one is at the bottom, similar to cradling a beach ball. Use your right leg to step slightly to the side then shift your weight then turn your torso to your right. Breathe out as your hands glide across your body. Once you reach the right side you should breathe in as you rotate your hands to bring the left arm to the top. Next, your left leg should carry your body weight as you turn your torso to the side.
2. Upper Back Stretch – It will stretch out the muscles on your shoulder blades. Stand apart with your feet shoulder width apart and interlock your fingers in front of you with the palms facing forward and outward. Raise your arms in front of you as far as possible and relax your upper back. Repeat the procedure for at least 10 times for the best results.
3. Push And Pull – Start by relaxing your knees then raise both of your arms in front of you. Make sure they are shoulder high and your palms should be facing outwards. Imagine yourself being at the center of a clock. Your right leg should step forward towards the 2 on your clock. Next, you should shift your weight and breathe out as you push with your arms. Next, turn your palms inwards and breathe out as you pull the arms back towards your body. Try out the other side and repeat the procedure several times.
4. Back Twist – Stand normally with the feet pointing forward. Next, turn your upper body to the side as far down as possible and hold the pose for a moment. Turn back and twist your body to the other side. Try out 10 reps on each side, giving your arms a chance to relax and move your body freely.
5. Autumn Breeze – Stand and bent your knees slightly with your arms in front of you. Turn your right hand perpendicularly to the ground with your left hand being parallel to the ground. Next, turn your waist to your left to appear like your right hand is blowing your left one away. Your arms should flow with your body as you move as far left as possible then reverse the exercise and go the opposite way. It’s a good exercise to boost the flexibility and strength of your spine.
6. Ruler Exercise – A ruler might not be mandatory but it might help. Stand with your feet apart, a foot wide. Next, turn your left foot outwards 45 degrees and move the right one forward just a little bit. Put your hands in front of your waist and make sure your palms are facing each other. Hold the ruler between your palms or keep them apart, a foot wide, if you don’t have a ruler. You should shift your weight to the right foot then raise the arms forward straight and upwards. Next, shift your body’s weight to the left foot then lower your arms and repeat the procedure for 5 minutes. It’s a good exercise to relive soreness and stiffness from your back.
7. Hands Waving Clouds – Start by relaxing your knees, bring your arms up and gaze at your palms. Take your left arm and curve it in front of your waist. Step to the right slightly then shift your weight and turn your torso slowly to the right, just like opening a sliding door. Breathe out then watch your right hand as the arms follow the body. Make sure the movement is coming from the upper body rather than the shoulder. When you reach the side, breathe in and rotate your arms. Now, your left arm will be raised with the right one curving naturally before your waist then repeat the move. Turn your torso to the left slowly as the left leg bears the body’s weight.
There are a lot of cases of people complaining about persistent lower back pains and general back pains in our societies. What they should know is that Tai Chi can be a solution to their problem. It is true because it does not only allow learning about muscle relaxations and balance improvement, but also it helps you to reduce stress and your anxiety. In cases where conventional treatments do not work well with, you better try some Tai Chi.
Many people believe that since Tai Chi is a martial art, it is hard to master all its aspects. However, they should know that it is a milder form of martial arts that focuses more on the condition of the body rather than real life combat situations. Additionally, it helps in limb coordination and elimination of tension for a better awareness of own body. Therefore, they should know that research has proven it to be effective, safe and you can learn it easily. It has shown to be benefiting to millions of people across the world who have given it a try.