New Therapy for Fibromyalgia Is Not New at All

Sunset at Sea, 1882Fibromyalgia, the stress and trauma-related disorder that affects millions of people, is characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, fatigue, multiple tender points, difficulties with sleep, impaired functioning, and depression. There are a few treatments that show at least some efficacy in relieving fibromyalgia’s often severe symptoms. These include pain medication, psychotherapy, and physical therapy. Now, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi has been added as an effective treatment option.

Compared to wellness education and stretching, 60 minutes of classic Yang-style tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks can significantly improve even the most severe fibromyalgia symptoms. These are the results of a study conducted by a team of researchers at Tufts University’s Division of Rheumatology on 66 randomly chosen patients. Half of the participants were assigned to a control group that was treated with education about stretching exercises and how to best deal with the disease, while the other half was treated with a regimen of tai chi. Compared to baseline results and to the control group, tai chi-treated patients showed a significantly greater improvement in their symptoms and quality of life. A follow-up test after 24 weeks showed that these gains were maintained. No adverse side effects were observed.

The results of this important new study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on August 19, 2010.