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Tai Chi and Fibromyalgia

An Interview with Dr. Briggs

2.1 MB
02:19 min

People with fibromyalgia may benefit from practicing tai chi, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by muscle pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. People with fibromyalgia have chronic widespread pain, as well as “tender points” on areas of the body, which hurt when slight pressure is applied.


Akinso: A new study shows that people with fibromyalgia may benefit from practicing tai chi.

Briggs: Tai Chi is an ancient meditative form of exercise.

Akinso: Dr. Josephine Briggs is the Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Briggs: It’s very commonly practiced in China. It's a mind-body practice. It combines slow movements, deep breathing, relaxation and meditative components.

Akinso: Dr. Briggs says that fibromyalgia is a common disease.

Briggs: Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men, that's characterized by diffuse musculoskeletal complaints and pain. One of the characteristics of fibromyalgia is enhanced sensitivity pain. People with fibromyalgia also often suffer from sleep disturbances, disturbed appetite, and depression and enhanced stress.

Akinso: Researchers evaluated the physical and psychological benefits of tai chi in 66 people with fibromyalgia. Dr. Briggs explains the scope of the study, which was funded in part by NCCAM.

Briggs: This was a small study in which the investigators took 66 patients with fibromyalgia and half of them were put into a control group. The control group was given stretching exercises and some support. The tai chi group received regular instruction in tai chi principles and techniques and were urged to practice tai chi at home. The people who did tai chi had a significantly greater improvement in their symptoms—measured by something called the fibromyalgia impact score. They also reported better sleep quality, better mood, and better quality of life. The investigators were quite enthusiastic about the potential of this study and we certainly are too.

Akinso: Dr. Briggs believes that this study is promising because people are actively treating this condition by taking tai chi themselves. For more information, visit This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

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This page last modified September 24, 2017