For Fibromyalgia, Experts Recommend Trying ‘Tai’

Traditional martial art shown as preferable to aerobic exercise

Compared with aerobic exercise, the traditional martial art of tai chi is as good as, or better than, aerobic exercise, for improving the overall severity of fibromyalgia symptoms, new research shows.

Results of a 52-week single-blind trial showed that in addition to fibromyalgia symptom relief, tai chi was associated greater improvements in depression, anxiety, self-efficacy, and the mental component of the Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) quality-of-life measure.

“Compared with aerobic exercise, the most commonly prescribed non-drug treatment, tai chi appears as effective as or better for managing fibromyalgia,” the investigators, led by Chenchen Wang, MD, Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, write. “This mind-body approach may be considered a therapeutic option in the multidisciplinary management of fibromyalgia.”

The study, which can be viewed on the BMJ website, included 226 people with fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to receive supervised aerobic exercise for 24 weeks, twice weekly (n = 75), or one of four Yang-style supervised tai chi interventions, 12 or 24 weeks once or twice weekly (n = 151). Participants were followed for 52 weeks. Investigators report adherence was “rigorously” encouraged in person and by telephone.

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