Fibromyalgia (FM) is among the most widespread of musculoskeletal disorders, affecting 6 million Americans. The condition represents a conundrum for the researcher as well as for the health care worker. Its biophysical characteristics are poorly understood along with the many associated problems, such as impaired global health, high disability level, decreased functional levels, and inadequate symptom relief. Strategies for treatment should be dynamic and include not only pharmacological, but also physical, psychological, and educational approaches. According to the researchers, the most positive treatments are those that include both mind-body therapy and exercise. T’ai Chi is often called meditation in motion and combines mind-body therapy and physical exercise.
The researchers hypothesized that there would be positive changes in pre-exercise to post-exercise scores for FM symptoms, and positive changes in pre-exercise to post-exercise scores for health status after six weeks of twice-weekly, 1-hour classes in Yang-style T’ai Chi.
The participants were volunteers from a FM support group. There were 37 in total, 35 of who were female. All were between the ages of 26 and 80, and the time since their diagnoses ranged from 1 to 24 years. By the end of the study, two participants withdrew, two could not do the exercises, one had back surgery, and there were nine incomplete data sheets.
Outcomes were measured with three different self-assessed surveys: the Medical Outcomes Study Questionnaire short form-36, the Center for Well-being Health History Questionnaire, and the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ). The primary hypothesis was compared to two-tailed alternatives and a Bonferoni correction for primary outcomes was applied to ensure the overall alpha level of .05
The results of the investigation were generally very good. Not only did T’ai Chi show promise in controlling some of the symptoms, but also the majority of participants showed continued interest in continuing the practice at their own expense.