About Parkinson's Disease




Tai Chi and Parkinson's


 

Tai Chi is an internal martial art form that uses the mind to control the movements of the body. It helps you become aware of your body and the integration of each part with the whole. Visual imagery is used to help in this mind–body connection and to aid in movement and coordination. The slow, deliberate movements of the Tai Chi form can directly address many of the major Parkinson's symptoms. For example:

 

  • Preventing falls and developing flexibility: The constant sinking, turning, and shifting of weight in the Tai Chi form gives a tremendous workout to the legs and lower body. The constant transition from move to move stretches the hip and groin area, thus strengthening the muscles and joints. Each stance ends with roots sunk deep into the ground, while remaining flexible like a tree in the wind.

 

 

  • Balance: In Tai Chi, proper alignment of the body is obtained by tucking in the chin, raising the back of the neck slightly, and elongating the spine as if it is suspended from the top of the head like a string of pearls. This “string” imagery relieves the stress on the back muscles, relaxes the shoulders, and improves posture and balance.

 

  • Rigidity and freezing: It is not unusual for people with Parkinson’s to experience rigidity or to suddenly become frozen when walking. Concentrating on flowing like a river in the form produces beautiful, even movements that are thrilling to experience.

 

Tai Chi’s gentle balance-enhancing motions can obviously help the Parkinson’s patient by helping to reduce the gradual loss of balance that Parkinson’s sufferers often experience. However, there may be much more it offers. For example, Tai Chi movements rotate the human body in about 95% of the ways the body can move, when a long form is practiced. This is far beyond what other exercises offer, and in fact the closest would be a number of different swimming strokes, which together would only rotate the body in about 65% of the ways it can move. For Parkinson’s sufferers, or anyone for that matter, this would indicate that by “using” 95% of the body’s possible motion several times a week, the possibility of “losing” the ability to do so diminishes accordingly. This isn’t rocket science, but simple common sense. Yet, perhaps Parkinson’s patients have even more to gain from Tai Chi.

 

Tai Chi for Parkinson’s is being increasingly recommended by support groups and some progressive medical centres in Northern America. There are many obvious reasons everyone with Parkinson’s should be doing Tai Chi. One obvious reason is that Tai Chi is the most powerful balance and coordination-enhancing exercise known. In many studies at major universities, Tai Chi was found to be twice as effective in reducing falls than other balance-enhancing exercises being studied. For people with Parkinson’s, who often see their balance deteriorate as their condition progresses, it is important for them to be informed of Tai Chi’s potential benefits at the earliest stage possible while their balance is still good.

 

Acknowledgement:

Michael Micallef, Tai Chi Instructor and Tuina, (Chinese Massage) practitioner.

 

References:

  • The Parkinson’s Society of Canada recommends Tai Chi for Parkinson’s patients, suggesting “Tai Chi may prevent or at least slow down the onset of degenerative diseases; in the long run, it can reduce need for rehabilitative care.” Click here to read more.

 

  • In a Mayo Clinic article entitled, "Essential tremor," their Self Care section of the article recommends Tai Chi as an effective therapy for reducing tremors. Click here to read more.

 

  • At a popular health website called RemedyFind.com viewers can vote on therapies they’ve found benefited their condition, or didn’t. The rating there for Tai Chi as a Parkinson’s therapy received a rating of 9.8 out of a possible 10. 

 



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