Tai chi improves Parkinson patients’ walking ability

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tai chi and qi gong help parkinson's disease

Tai chi and Qi Gong for Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder that attacks the nervous system and worsens over time. Its main symptoms are bradykinesia (slowness of movement), muscle stiffness, stooped posture, impaired movement, and most notably, tremors. These symptoms are a direct result of the malfunction and death of neurons, which produce dopamine, the chemical that transmits messages involved in muscle movement. When the neurons die, less dopamine is produced, therefore causing uncontrollable movements.

There is no known cause for Parkinson’s Disease, and there is no cure. Certain medications and surgical can alleviate some symptoms, but they aren’t for every patient. Drugs have an equally negative effect on quality of life as the disease itself, or they may not be strong enough to control symptoms. Patients seeking alternative treatments are often left to sift through empty promises and miracle claims from any number of sources. In the end, they receive no true treatment, while the disease has only gotten worse.

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternatives. In fact, series of studies into the ancient Chinese martial arts Tai chi and Qi Gong as treatment methods have shown promise. Tai chi and Qi Gong are exercise disciplines that involve slow, yet deliberate movements. These disciplines have often been referred to as “meditation in motion” and are considered by millions to be the perfect remedy for relieving stress, anxiety, and maintaining inner peace. And these practices may do much more than that.

Tradition vs. Contemporary

Researchers gathered data from 15 trials that evaluated the effectiveness of Tai Chi and Qigong when used alongside medications that treat Parkinson’s Disease. Within these independent studies, 799 participants at varying stages of the disease either participated in Tai Chi, Qigong, stretching and resistance training, dancing, walking, or other exercises, alongside their medications. Other types of exercise were added to the studies so that the researchers could measure the differences in the effects of the treatments.

Tai Chi and Qigong

While compiling the data, researchers learned several interesting things about what Tai Chi and Qigong can do for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. One of the studies showed that there was an increase in walking speed and step length for practitioners of Tai Chi when compared to other treatment methods. Several studies showed that practicing Tai Chi or Qigong while taking medication showed improvements in a greater quality of life than in other combinations of therapy. But because not all studies reached the same results, there are still questions as to their effectiveness.

One of the standouts of the Tai Chi studies was improved motor function and the ability to reach. Patients who practiced the martial art showed greater improvements than they did with any other type of treatment, this included patients who performed Tai Chi without medication. The same result was found for improvement in balance.

Researchers who analyzed the data from the independent studies concluded that Tai Chi, when used alongside medication, can make positive changes in treatment; therefore, they suggested that Tai Chi be recommended for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. As for Qigong, they noted that there were signs of improvement, but suggested that more studies should be conducted before any recommendations could be given.


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