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Arthritis & Tai Chi

Arthritis is a condition that involves the inflammation of one or more joints. There are over one hundred different types of arthritis that cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which can severely affect the daily activity of sufferers. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common; arthritis affects people of all ages including children. According to conventional medicine arthritis cannot be cured, although conventional medicine acknowledges that regular gentle exercise can help alleviate the pain for arthritis sufferers.

Tai Chi and Qigong are both forms of gentle exercise. In particular, a specific kind of Qigong can have an amazing results for arthritis sufferers that can cure some types of arthritis. The below testimonial is written by an arthritis sufferer who had practised Tai Chi and Qigong for only three months. It makes very interesting reading.

The Tai Chi arthritis testimonial below is unedited; the original email is available.

Tai Chi and Qigong for arthritis and insomnia: testimonial from a Tai Chi student in Sydney

I have been attending Tai Chi Society classes in Sydney for a little under a year now. I decided to try Tai Chi simply as a form of exercise which I would be able to do with increasingly painful osteoarthritis in several sets of joints (knees, hips, shoulders). When I learned of the possibilities for Tai Chi to improve arthritis symptoms I was hopeful I might also achieve some pain relief. It has helped me a lot with pain, and also had an unexpected effect on a lifelong sleeping problem.
I did notice improvements in the arthritis symptoms after a fairly short amount of time. The pain in all of these joint sets was significantly decreased after about 3 months of practising Tai Chi. After almost a year, my hips have been, for many months now, completely pain free, my shoulders display symptoms only after certain physical activities which place a particular twisting strain on them, although far less pain than I started out with, and they recover fast, and my knees, although still having some pain symptoms, are much improved. I am now able to move easily. I can stand and sit with a pain level in the knee joints which is minimal and tolerable. Importantly, I can use stairs with barely any pain, and like a “normal” person, a smooth constant climb up or down, as opposed to dragging myself up one step at a time while clinging to a railing. I have regained muscle mass in my legs which had been losing strength and beginning to waste due to my restricted movement, and movements involving any of the problem joints have become not only far less painful, but more fluid. My range of movement had improved a great deal. My lower back, which I had considered the least of my problems pain-wise, although it had long had mild but constant pain, is also now pain free, which seems to contribute to the regained fluidity and ease of movement.
My knees were the first and most significantly affected joints. I was in constant pain even when sitting with no weight on the knee joints. I was unable to stand from a chair without extreme pain and difficulty, and a flight of stairs had become a dreaded obstacle to be avoided at all costs. I am in my early 30s, and the idea of facing this kind of pain for potentially another fifty or so years is a thought that had often terrorised me. I had been through much of the medical and alternative medicine options to find a solution for this, including many years of physiotherapy with a number of therapists, various pharmaceuticals suggested by GPs and rheumatologists, including but not limited to steroid injections into the joints, remedial massage and acupuncture. I had not yet turned to surgical options as the orthopaedic surgeons I had consulted refuse to consider total knee replacement on someone my age, and felt that as there were no clear problems apparent on MRI scans, arthroscopy was unlikely to offer much benefit. They were willing to try this however, and out of desperation, I was in the process of arranging it when I began Tai Chi. I am very pleased that I found Tai Chi at this particular moment in time. I have not had to have the arthroscopy done, and have happily given up the search for someone who would do full knee replacement. Physically, life has become much easier, and far more pleasant.

One very unexpected, and unrelated, benefit occurred very quickly, I believe from the Qigong exercises. As long as I can remember, and according to my parents, long before I can remember, I have had difficulty sleeping. An insomnia that I have learned to live with, although I have tried many treatments throughout my life, among them, many prescribed drugs, cognative behavioural techniques, herbal remedies, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, hypnosis, aromatherapy and meditation. Although some worked to varying degrees, none provided any lasting relief, and I had long since given up hope of finding any. I suspect there were fairly instant results, in that I remember sleeping well the night after the very first class, but it took me a few weeks to work it out. I have no doubt now where the fix is. I practise the Qigong exercises -- Qigong Twelve Wonders, Qigong Nine Heavens and Qigong Ten Pinnacles -- daily. I practise the Tai Chi most days too, but it is the Qigong that seems to be the defining activity that regulates my sleep. Simply, if I, for some reason, do not get a chance to do the Qigong exercises at some point in the day, I will have great difficulty falling asleep that night, and if I do, will wake up frequently, just as it always was throughout my life. If I take the time to do the Qigong exercises, I fall asleep easily and sleep soundly through the night. No doubt the decreased pain levels also help my sleep, but this was a pre existing condition long before the arthritis began, and I find the effect on my sleep of the absence of the exercises in my daily routine quite extreme. An unexpected but very welcome benefit!

Thankyou Great Grand Master Kellen Chia for sharing your knowledge! Chronic pain is an insidious thing, it affects the mind as much as the body, and the benefits I have gained from your teaching have made what had begun to seem like a long dark future into a much brighter prospect!

X Masters

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