Aquatic Ai Chi Therapy Seen to Considerably Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia Patients

Aquatic Ai Chi Therapy Seen to Considerably Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia Patients

An aquatic therapy known as Ai Chi may help to improve the mental and physical health, and overall quality of life, in women with fibromyalgia, according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

Ai Chi is  characterized by a set of slow movements in water, performed in a progressive sequence of increasing difficulty and accompanied with deep breathing. It is used for recreation, relaxation, fitness, and physical rehabilitation. Clinical Ai Chi is a more specialized form, used for specific therapeutic applications.

Spanish researchers and colleagues recruited 20 women with fibromyalgia, ages 45-70. All received a total of 20 sessions of an aquatic Ai Chi program lasting 45 minutes each, twice a week for 10 weeks. The researchers asked the participants to fill in a questionnaire at the beginning and at the end of the program, collecting information about the location and intensity of muscle and bone pain that they experienced.

The researchers also measured the participants’ health-related quality of life (HRQoL) using the short form 36 (SF-36) health survey, a patient reported survey of health. HRQoL is defined as the degree to which health affects a person’s daily activities, as well as their perception of physical, mental and social well-being.

The study, “A new approach to the improvement of quality of life in fibromyalgia: a pilot study on the effects of an aquatic Ai Chi program,” revealed that after 10 session of aquatic Ai Chi, perception of pain, vitality, mental health and perceived life quality had significantly improved.

“The participants of this study were highly satisfied with the treatment received, noting an improvement in their pain, relaxation and mood,” the authors wrote. “[W]ater-based Ai Chi represents a promising treatment option for pain reduction which may contribute toward decreasing the impact of the illness in the daily life of individuals with fibromyalgia as well as improving their quality of life.”

Follow-up studies including a control group should be conducted to determine how long the treatment’s positive effects last.

6 comments

  1. Bonnie Nordby says:

    Inducing a parasympathetic trance state during exercising is one key to ai chi, qigong and land based tai chi’s effectiveness for those with fibromyalgia. Turning down fibromyalgia’s sympathetic nervous system in overdrive restores balance and creates the optimal conditions for healing. This also reduces the exercise induced pain flare response so common in fibromyalgia. The Taoist ideal of becoming like water is a beautiful metaphor to be embraced by those with fibromyalgia. Our bodies are 60% water, these movements enhance both blood and lymph flow bathing the body in oxygen and cleansing the body of waste products and toxins. In ai chi moving in the water gently massages the body reducing pain, stiffness and edema in extremities. The body’s posture supported by warm water helps loosen joints, muscles and tendons increasing range of motion. If you do not have a an ai chi class or warm pool available you can join a qigong class to learn the essential practices. Once you learn these practices they are highly adaptable to practicing them in the water. There are videos and books you can learn from too. Because of neuropathic pain in my legs from a back injury and then developing fibromyagia I had difficulty exercising while standing or walking. Having practiced yoga since age 17 I suddenly could not tolerate static stretches or floor based exercise. Exercising in the water creates a traction on my spine that relieved pain. The flowing movement of ai chi in the water was one key in my healing. Graduating to land based qigong I gradually built up my leg stregnth and improve my core stregnth. Now at 57 I can hike and recently my muscles and tendons told me it was ok to do deep stretching and my flexibility is back allowing me to assume seated poses last visited by a 30 year old body.

  2. Steve from MA says:

    Thanks very much for your comment. I think at least twice a week for any of these down regulating exercises is critical. First, our nervous systems are tough to deal with if you’ve had FM for decades. Second, despite years, decades ago, of martial arts training, I did not find either tai chi or xi gong easy to learn in weekly sessions even though one of my past studies was a form of kung fu. I think I will check into the availability of private sessions to try again.

  3. Kelli Allred says:

    My fibromyalgia is the result of post-polio syndrome. The physical therapists for PPS suggest water-based exercises are the best for maintaining health and for reducing pain. The goal is to exercise without trying to build muscle. It’s working for me.

  4. Sinead says:

    Is this in England only ot in Ireland…. god my fibromyalgia on my left arm esp top half and elbow killing me meds taken cream applied, any one got any new ideas. from Sinead (Dublin)……

    • Jan says:

      My massage therapist has been using “cupping” with me recently and I have found myself with less pain and burning and more flexibility.

  5. Trey Brester says:

    The respiratory muscles are forced to work harder in the water, allowing for a natural strengthening that benefits the client long after the therapy session has ended. Compared to other forms of physical therapy, aquatic therapy results in a higher client compliance rate and less pain throughout the recovery process. Opportunities to significantly minimize the pain a client experiences should be taken seriously because with less pain, a client can enjoy a higher quality of life.

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