Multiple Sclerosis and Tai Chi

multiple sclerosis and Tai Chi

Shibashi exercises

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art. Shibashi, a form of Tai Chi, are 18 simple exercises that are easy to learn Recently I attended a physiotherapy session at the MS Therapy Centre at Halton where I was introduced to the Shibashi exercise routines.

Multiple Sclerosis and Tai Chi

Shibashi are coordinated movements performed in a fluid, continuous way. They help to give you good posture and deep abdominal breathing. Many people with MS have problems with their balance. The Shibashi  exercises call for steady and controlled movements that involve balance and transfer of weight.

How can Tai Chi help MSers?

To put it at a very basic level the brain has to find a neural pathway to pass the messages so the balance and controlled movement exercises are completed. Sometimes the brain has to find an alternative route because the primary route is no longer usable. Many of these exercises involve balance or transfer of weight from one leg to another and flowing movements with the arms.

Is this a good idea?

I think Tai Chi is definitely a good idea. Its seeks to achieve the following

  • relieve stress
  • improve focus
  • improve muscle tone
  • develop balance of the mind and the body

Any form of physical exercise is good for you though Tai Chi will not make you red cheeked and break into a sweat.

  • you can do the movements standing but if this proves too difficult then do them sitting down
  • controlled movement is an excellent idea
  • coordinate the movement
  • it is very relaxing
  • the exercises are not difficult but concentration is essential

It places emphasis on synchronizing movements with proper breathing techniques.

This is a gentle, beautiful and flowing exercise routine.

Can Tai Chi help?

Some research suggests tai chi can reduce the risk of falls  Very little research appears to have been done into how tai chi helps balance and movement for MSers.

Did the exercises help me?

Yes the exercises made me feel better. During the class I needed to think and concentrate because the movement patterns are not something I have done before. I realised that so many of the stresses and frustrations of day to day are put to one side whilst doing the exercises. The brain of an MSer will have to develop new pathways if the traditional ones are no longer usable. This is called neuroplasticity.

What’s the basic technique?

Tai chi is characterised by its slow, continuous movements that are gentle on the joints and muscles. Done correctly, you’ll find that the tai chi poses flow smoothly from one into another. Many movements are completed with bent knees in a squat-like position.

Word of warning

If your balance is not good then make sure there is something available to stop you falling over. Why not do the exercises sitting down if your balance is not very good. If you are standing up then the back of a dinning chair is at an ideal height to hold on to for extra support. Also use common sense; I’m sure you will know when your balance is getting wobbly.

March 2014

4 responses to “Multiple Sclerosis and Tai Chi”

  1. John Cowburn says:

    Hi Patrick, is your balance good enough to practice Tai Chi stood up? Mine isn’t so I tried a Tai Chi class for sitting down but didn’t feel it did me much good! John

    • Hello John,

      I tried Tai Chi but unimpressed. As for standing up, well no chance and I think that defeats the purpose of it. I do a regular Pilates class + regular exercise at home and it really does help me.

  2. Berni says:

    Ho praticato per un po, ho dovuto interrompere per problemi di salute, spero di riprendere a settembre

    • Hello Berni,

      I used Google translate and it said ‘I practiced for a while, I had to stop due to health problems, I hope to resume in September’.I am a great believer that any exercise that you can do safely is good for you. Good luck come September. I do Pilates every week and walk as much as is safe and possible.

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