Effects of t’ai chi exercise on fibromyalgia symptoms and health related quality of life.

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 study from baseline to post-exercise showed statistical significance was achieved for all FIQ domains except work missed, job ability, fatigue, and depression; however, they all showed positive clinical improvement of at least 20%. As for changes in health-related quality of life, all domains showed improvement either statistically or clinically; in addition, weight loss was observed. For the short form-36, five of eight domains achieved statistical significance with some improvement in all eight. The researchers considered their study an overall success with a few exceptions. Limitations of the study include its small sample size, and the high number of participants that did not complete the study. The post-test survey was sent through the mail, so without supervision during survey completion, nine of the surveys were sent back incomplete. The researchers also felt that some of the answers given by participants may have been motivated by a desire to please the investigators. Finally, the study was limited because it was a single group study.


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.


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