Are you, or someone you know, dealing with Parkinson's disease? If so, Tai Chi may provide needed help.
In an article for Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications blog, Dr. Peter Wayne (author of the excellent "The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind" and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School) discusses the effectiveness of Tai Chi as a safe, side-effect free treatment for Parkinson's symptoms (such as tremors, loss of balance, freezing of movement, sleeping problems, and more).
Referring to a study in the famed New England Journal of Medicine by a team at the Oregon Research Institute, he noted that researchers had found that study participants who did Tai Chi twice a week were significantly stronger and had better balance, fewer falls, and slower rates of decline in motor control than participants who did either strength training or stretching!
He also noted that other studies have shown that Tai Chi improves overall quality of life not only for people with Parkinson's disease, but for their support partners as well. Not only that, but it is safe, with very little risk of practitioners (even those with Parkinson's) getting hurt because of their training.
Dr. Wayne goes on to talk a bit more about Parkinson's, noting how the brain disorder affects more than one million Americans, and impacts muscle control, leading to symptoms like trembling, loss of facial expression, and even changes to thinking skills and memory. He notes that, since the New England Journal of Medicine study, Tai Chi classes just for people with Parkinson's disease have been appearing, but this is far from an indictment: he, along with several colleagues at the Harvard Medical School, the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, along with Tai Chi experts, have developed a 12-week Tai Chi Program for Parkinson's patients of their very own.
This team have also begun a new study that will be used to guide future studies into the health benefits of Tai Chi, especially for those recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He believes that more hospitals and treatment centers will develop and host Tai Chi programs of their own as more scientific evidence mounts regarding the benefits this practice holds for those with Parkinson's disease, as well as others.
We have found these results to support our own work with Tai Chi students dealing with Parkinson's and other degenerative ailments, and have seen some amazing recoveries from regular practice of this gentle healing art.