Tai Chi, a complementary practice to Osteopathic Rehab

Until the 20th century, Tai Chi was exclusively practiced by martial artists in China "for its defence training, its health benefits and meditation". Nowadays, this internal martial art is practiced globally by an eclectic population, the senior community being the most active in the Western world.


For a long time, the positive effects of Tai Chi on body and mind was supported in theory only. However, during recent decades, Tai Chi has been examined from a scientific perspective giving support to its restorative nature. Documented benefits of a regular Tai Chi practice include:

  1. Improved immune response

  2. Cardio function

  3. Decreased inflammation

  4. Increased strength, mobility, flexibility and balance

  5. Enhanced wellbeing and quality of sleep


Tai Chi and Osteopathic Rehab

From an Osteopathic philosophy perspective, everything is in constant interaction and deeply interrelated. Thus, every structure, function and process in our body has the power to affect the others; transforming the way we feel, our posture and movement. This explains why a particular dysfunction can affect a distant region, seemingly unrelated. Manual Osteopathic interventions focus on:

  1. Discovering the real origin of the dysfunction, avoiding to solely focus on the source of the pain area. This is the keystone of Osteopathy.

  2. Revealing and addressing the main factors contributing to such dysfunction.

  3. Creating the optimal conditions needed for the healing process to take place.

The last 2 points are crucial to the success of the treatment in the mid and long term. This is where disciplines such as Tai Chi become extremely useful.


Stress Levels and Quality of Sleep

Stress and a poor quality of sleep have a detrimental effect on our health and can inhibit certain healing processes. Thus it is vital to offer our clients feasible enjoyable alternatives to help them improve their peace of mind and quality of sleep. It is well known in the Tai Chi community that its regular practice can be associated to a refined quality of sleep, an improved stress response and an enhanced feeling of peacefulness. To support this observed evidence,

  • "Cognitive behavioural therapy vs. Tai Chi for late life insomnia and inflammatory risk: a randomized controlled comparative efficacy trial" demonstrated that a regular Tai Chi practice was associated with improvements in sleep quality and fatigue.

  • "Tai Chi Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [CBT-I] for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Randomized, Partially Blinded, Non-inferiority Trial" showed that this mindful movement meditation was found to be "statistically non-inferior [as beneficial] to CBT-I, the gold standard for behavioural treatment of insomnia".

  • "Therapeutic Benefits of Tai Chi Exercise: Research Review" showed that Tai Chi may "lead to increased psychological well-being and sleep enhancement for sleep disturbed elderly individuals".


Rehab and the Power of Habits

Most musculoskeletal issues persist and aggravate because our habits (e.g. poor posture or dysfunctional movement) provide food for dysfunctions to linger, developing into chronic conditions. In this case, full restoration and healing can only be achieved after creating and adapting to more appropriate habits. In terms of biomechanics and breathing functionality, it has been proven that a regular Tai Chi practice helps improve our body structure and function.

  • "Therapeutic Benefits of Tai Chi Exercise: Research Review" showed that Tai Chi "improved balance, reduced fear of falling, increased strength, increased functional mobility, greater flexibility and increased cardio functioning". In addition, a regular Tai Chi practice enhances the functionality of our nervous, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, circulatory and respiratory systems.

  • "Therapeutic Benefits of Tai Chi Exercise: Research Review" corroborated.

  • "Augmenting immune responses to varicella zoster virus in older adults: a randomized, controlled trial of Tai Chi" showed a strengthened immune system.

The main purpose of Osteopathic Rehab is to help our clients heal, restore and improve their condition by incorporating more beneficial activities into their everyday life, creating and nurturing better habits. I compliment them with the wholistic and comprehensive practice of Tai Chi.


"Our state of health is deeply and consequentially related to our habits.

Are our habits contributing to our well-being or are they feeding an ailment?


Habitual vs Appropriate

As a Manual Osteopath, I cannot insist enough on the importance of regaining more appropriate habits. Osteopathy emphasizes the role that all body structures play in the maintenance of a healthy state. Furthermore, it highlights the significance of everything we do (or do not) on a habitual basis. Habits become the norm.


Does hunching over feel "normal" and standing straight "awkward"?


If this is your experience, keep in mind that “normal” doesn't mean good or bad, it simply means it’s habit formed. Thus, it can be changed, by creating and nurturing more appropriate habits. The key word is consistency.


Osteopathy and Tai Chi

The benefits run both ways. Once healing is achieved and physical limitations improve, Tai Chi becomes a more meditational, peaceful and enjoyable experience. At Postureffect, we encourage our clients to continue practicing their favourite or most challenging Home Routines including Tai Chi, even after their condition has improved. Maintaining beneficial habits is vital in preventing future problems.



Resources

  • Therapeutic Benefits of Tai Chi Exercise: Research Review. Read

  • Augmenting immune responses to varicella zoster virus in older adults: a randomized, controlled trial of Tai Chi. Read.

  • Tai Chi Chih Compared With Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [CBT-I] for the Treatment of Insomnia in Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Randomized, Partially Blinded, Non-inferiority Trial. Read

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy vs. Tai Chi for late life insomnia and inflammatory risk: a randomized controlled comparative efficacy trial. Read

  • Tai Chi versus routine exercise in patients with early- or mild-stage Parkinson's disease: a retrospective cohort analysis. Read