2 minute read

The Western medical community has, for the last two decades, begun to integrate Eastern medical treatment paradigms with western routines and have been getting some amazing results. Not only are movement arts like Tai Chi and Qigong working to relieve stress and rehabilitate injuries, it is now being used to treat much deeper conditions like Parkinson´s Disease. There have been several studies that have indicated that the slow controlled movements of Tai Chi significantly improve balance and stability in Parkinson´s patients.

Dr. Fuzhong Li's Tai Chi Research, the findings of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, can be considered the lead study in the field. Dr. Li was lead author of the study that was conducted at the Oregon Research Institute. The study involved 195 patients divided into three groups:

  • Group One practiced Tai Chi for one hour a week for 24 weeks
  • Group Two used resistance training
  • And Group Three used simple stretching exercises

The study revealed that patients in the Tai Chi group performed significantly better in walking, balance, stride length and had far fewer falls that either of the other two groups. According to Dr. Furzong Li:

"These results are clinically significant because they suggest that Tai Chi, a low-to-moderate impact exercise, may be used, as an add-on to current physical therapies, to address some of the key clinical problems in Parkinson's disease, such as postural and gait instability.

"Since many training features in the program are functionally oriented, the improvements in the balance and gait measures that we demonstrated highlight the potential of Tai Chi-based movements in rehabilitating patients with these types of problems and, consequently, easing cardinal symptoms of Parkinson's disease and improving mobility, flexibility, balance, and range of motion."

Dr. Li´s program involved six Tai Chi movements that were integrated into an eight-form routine. The routine stressed weight shifting and the controlled displacement of the center of gravity. Because the largest danger from Parkinson´s is loss of stability, which gets worse over time, these exercises help build a solid base of support by using ankle sway, sideways and front to back stepping. While the report made no mention of it, the focus on movement that is taught in Tai Chi also has to be considered in treating Parkinson´s Disease because the disease is neurological and many falls are caused by lack of focus.