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9 Reasons Tai Chi Reduces Pain and Promotes Health

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Reprinted with the kind permission of Celeste Cooper

The ancient Chinese dance-like practice of tai chi is a meditative movement form that provides many health benefits, and there is evidence that it helps people living with chronic pain conditions.

“Tai chi should be called “medication in motion.”

Harvard Health Publishing


Bill Douglas, author of the best-selling tai chi book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tai Chi and Qigong”, developer of the Kansas University “Stress Reduction Program,” and founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is considered a Tai Chi and Qigong expert. In an interview, Bill tells Dr. Andrew Weil—on benefits— “students often comment about feeling a great sense of well-being, a sense of “being here and now” rather than scattered and anxious. I’ve heard students say after a class that they feel like they just had a day at the spa.” He also tells Dr. Weil, “Many students also talk about relief from chronic pain.”

Tai Chi:

  1. relieves stress
  2. promotes muscle health
  3. promotes flexibility
  4. gently stretches tender, contracted muscles
  5. promotes strength and Improves joint function
  6. circulates lymph fluid important to boosting immune function
  7. improves balance
  8. provides positive feedback to our brain
  9. moves our focus away from pain

2016 meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials found tai chi is a viable complementary and alternative medicine for chronic pain conditions. And, a recent study (March 21, 2018) suggests tai chi is at least as beneficial for fibromyalgia as aerobic exercise, possibly more.


The several styles of tai chi are named after the surname of their founder. The oldest style is Chen. Tai Chi Chen consists of low stances and powerful movements. The Yang family first became involved in the study of Tai Chi Chuan, which is the most common form of tai chi practiced in the west. Other forms include Wu, Hoa, and Sun style, though the Hoa style is seldom practiced today. You may also find combination styles of tai chi, which incorporate movements from more than one approach.

chi= qi = ki = prana: Traditional Chinese medicine refers to our vital energy force as chi or qi. Japanese call it ki, and it is known as prana in the ayurvedic medical tradition of India.

Each tai chi style has something different to offer based on the teacher’s approach.


It’s important that we know what type of tai chi is right for us. Our choice should align with our physical abilities and goals and never feel stressful, quite the opposite.

Each tai chi movement has purpose and a symbolic meaning. For instance, as we sink into our body we are opening our joints and relieving stress while building strength. The slow purposeful and graceful movements of tai chi give us the opportunity to make a mental and spiritual connection with our body and let the healing energy of chi heal our body, mind, and spirit.

It’s important to experience movement and meditation for our health and practicing Tai Chi is a great way to do both. It is less likely to trigger a flare and it helps those of us with physical limitations stay as active and healthy as possible. Tai chi is one of my personal tools to combat physical and mental stress.

See what I have to say about tai chi in an interview I did for US News and World Report in “9 Strategies for Coping with Fibromyalgia.”


Bill Douglas, wrote the foreword to our book (co-author Jeff Miller, PhD) Broken Body Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain, Winter Devotions and he had this to say  inside the cover of our book Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection:

“This integrative holistic approach to these conditions is what is needed throughout medicine today. Empowering us to become part of our own health and healing process is such a powerful approach to these conditions or any others. I applaud the authors, and hope they inspire others to follow their lead.”

Additional Reading

Can Aerobic Exercise Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Pained Ink Slayer Series: Mindfulness and Chronic Pain

In healing,

Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity? See opportunity!

Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth.  She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com.

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