Pain Management

Gentle Movement - The Evidence Behind It

Written by Carron Manning, Co-Founder of Chiron and Chartered Physiotherapist MSc BSc MCSP

There is growing evidence supporting the use of gentle movement practices for the management of chronic pain. Specifically, Tai Chi, which is an ancient Chinese martial art involving slow, flowing movements, deep breathing, and meditation. Several studies have investigated the impact of Tai Chi on various chronic pain conditions, and the evidence suggests quite a few benefits.

Evidence of gentle movement on chronic pain conditions 

Let’s go through some of this evidence together and see if we can help you make an educated decision for yourself. 

One research study shows that Tai Chi can lead to a reduction in pain intensity among individuals with chronic pain conditions, including osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low back pain. It’s also been associated with improvements in physical function and mobility. Participants in Tai Chi interventions often report enhanced balance, flexibility, and strength, which can contribute to better overall physical function.  

As Tai Chi incorporates mindfulness and meditative components, it is known to positively influence the psychological aspects of chronic pain. Studies have reported improvements in mood, stress reduction, and a better sense of well being among individuals practicing Tai Chi. General quality of life is also another big area of improvement linked with Tai Chi, quality of life includes physical, emotional, social and even spiritual aspects of life. 

woman in black sleeveless dress standing under green tree during daytime

The adaptability and long-term benefits for Tai Chi are also vast. Different populations, including older adults and individuals with various chronic conditions are able to engage in the gentle, low-impact nature of the activity, allowing for varying levels of fitness and mobility. This helps the benefits extend beyond the duration of the intervention and the normal active range - leading to sustained improvements in pain and physical function over the long term. Also, in certain chronic pain conditions, this modality has demonstrated comparable efficacy to conventional exercise programs. This makes it a viable alternative for individuals who may find more vigorous exercises challenging. 

Making gentle movement personal to you

It's important to note that while the evidence supporting the use of Tai Chi for chronic pain is promising, individual responses can vary. Additionally, more research is needed to better understand the specific mechanisms by which Tai Chi exerts its effects on chronic pain. 

As well, at Chiron, before starting any new exercise program, including Tai Chi, we always recommend individuals with chronic pain consult with their healthcare providers. It's essential to ensure that the chosen exercise is appropriate for your specific condition and that you receive proper guidance on technique and intensity. Overall, Tai Chi is generally considered a safe and well-tolerated practice, making it a valuable option for individuals seeking gentle movement for chronic pain management. We hope you check it out!