According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, Tai Chi or (tai chi chuan) is a martial art characterized by gracefully flowing movements and postures. “Chi” is translated as “energy” or “the flow of life force.”
Tai Chi can be described as “weight bearing Yoga.” Its movements focus on postural control, weight shift, deep breathing, coordination, mental concentration and awareness of body and movement.
What does Tai Chi have to do with balance problems and falls? In 2004, a study at Northwestern University evaluated a number of patients with balance disorders. These patients then were taken through an 8-week session of Tai Chi and then re-evaluated. Upon re-evaluation, the majority of the patients showed significant improvement in balance skills and reduces falls.
In addition to the above benefits, other studies have shown Tai Chi to be effective in providing other health benefits for conditions such as Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and Arthritis.
Tai Chi is a gentle, low impact exercise program that can be safely performed by older adults, younger adults and children of all ages. Even de-conditioned older adults can begin Tai Chi from a chair or wheelchair and derive benefits from performing the exercises. Loose, comfortable clothing is worn and instruction should be given by a certified instructor who is familiar with balance disorders.
The Arthritis Foundation, the National Council on Aging, and the Center for Disease Control all recommend Tai Chi to reduce falls and improve balance.
At the Balance Center at Decatur ENT Associates, we use Tai Chi as one of many tools in treating balance disorders and to help prevent falls. Our physical therapist has recently been certified as an instructor for Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall prevention. If you or your loved one is interested in learning more about our Balance and Fall Prevention program and Tai Chi, please contact us at 256-355-2096.
Kathy Sulcer, P.T.
The Balance Center
Decatur ENT Associates