Is tai chi an effective treatment for fibromyalgia?
Tai chi is an effective and safe intervention for patients with fibromyalgia, and the practice of tai chi should be encouraged.
Wang C, Schmid CH, Rones R, et al. A randomized trial of tai chi for fibromyalgia. N Engl J Med 2010;363(8):743-754.
Randomized controlled trial (single-blinded)
Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. Tai chi began as a martial art but has evolved into a practice that involves slow and stylized movements, breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation. In this study, adults who met American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia were randomized to tai chi or to a control intervention (general education about wellness and stretching). The mean duration of the participants' fibromyalgia was 11 years, and the baseline SF-36 physical health component was only 28 of 100, indicating poor health.
Patients in both groups met for 60 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks, and were asked to practice the intervention for 20 minutes per day at home. Of 124 patients in the Boston area who were screened for participation, 66 were included. Most of the remainder had scheduling conflicts, did not have fibromyalgia, had practiced tai chi recently, or were physically unable to participate. Outcomes were evaluated at 12 weeks and 24 weeks. Follow-up was good (30/33 patients in the tai chi group and 29/33 in the control group at 24 weeks).
Patients in the intervention group had improvements in pain, function, and symptoms that were statistically and clinically greater than those in the control group. Benefits were largely maintained at 12 weeks after the end of formal classes.