~ Tai Chi for Back Pain & Arthritis ~
This program was created by Dr. Paul Lam, a family physician and T’ai Chi expert. Dr. Lam selected movements from traditional Sun style T’ai Chi to design a sequence that’s therapeutic and safe for people with chronic back pain or arthritis. The slow, gentle, continuous movements integrate mind and body. The Arthritis Foundation has adopted this series as one of its evidence-based exercise programs.
Some students start the course while sitting in chairs. Others bring a chair with them onto the mat so they can use it for balance or sit down as they need to. It’s essential that people learn T’ai Chi at their own pace and movements are modified for individuals as necessary.
The T’ai Chi for Back Pain and Arthritis form has 21 Sun Style movements. Ten additional movements are added in the continuing class.
Various related qigong and therapeutic exercises are also taught, and these are often accompanied by handouts. Some time will be given to explaining the origins and history of T’ai Chi.
T’ai Chi helps back pain and arthritis because:
- It promotes a relaxed, upright posture while moving in all directions.
- Using abdominal breathing and conscious control, T’ai Chi activates and strengthens the deep stabilizing muscles that support the lower back.
- Regular practice reduces stiffness and increases flexibility and and mobility. The joints are better lubricated and the muscles supporting the joints are strengthened.
- T’ai Chi is low-impact aerobic exercise that increases stamina.
- T’ai Chi provides a constructive focus for the mind, and it’s soothing and fun.
Western clinical trials have proven these benefits of T’ai Chi:
- Improves balance and reduces falls
- Strengthens and improves flexibility in legs, knees, and ankles
- Elevates mood by reducing tension, depression, anger, and confusion
- Reduces stress hormones in the body
- Lowers blood pressure
- Boosts the immune system
- Increases lung capacity
- Reduces arthritis pain and stiffness
- Slows bone loss in postmenopausal women
- Improves quality of life for breast cancer survivors
Margaret Emerson is certified by Dr. Lam to teach T’ai Chi for Back Pain and T’ai Chi for Arthritis. She has been practicing since 1979 and teaching since 1989. Her primary teachers are Kao Ching-hua in Illinois (6 years) and Chi Seong-in in South Korea (1-1/2 years). She is the author of A Potter’s Notes on Tai Chi Chuan and Breathing Underwater: The Inner Life of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. She is a contributor to the book Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching also to Qi Journal, Aikido Today, and Black Belt Magazine. Her video is “Wu T’ai Chi, Kao Style: As Practiced and Taught by Margaret Emerson.”