Fibromyalgia has been in the news after it forced pop star Lady Gaga to cancel her world tour—but her fans may still have seen their favourite singer if she had taken up tai chi, the slow-motion movement exercise, a new study has found. It works better than all the standard treatments, including drugs and aerobic exercise, which are often recommended for a condition that causes chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
Tai chi has been tested against aerobic exercise on a group of 226 fibromyalgia patients; after a year, everyone reported that their symptoms had eased, but the biggest improvement by far was among those who had practised tai chi for six months, once or twice a week. Everyone can practise tai chi, whatever their level of mobility, while not everyone can do aerobic exercise, say the researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine. Aerobic exercise, which includes walking, swimming and cycling, is the exercise recommended to treat fibromyalgia’s symptoms, but it could be replaced by tai chi, experts say.
Tai chi incorporates breathing with slow flowing movements that are performed with focus and ‘mindfulness’. It’s already been shown to improve arthritis, posture and muscle strength, and can help with mobility in the ankles, hips and knees of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.