Tai Chi At Least As Beneficial As Standard Therapy For Fibromyalgia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“tai chi 11.4.09” by Luigi Scorcia is licensed under CC BY 2.0Chenchen Wang MD, MSc
Professor of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
Director, Center For Complementary And Integrative Medicine
Division of Rheumatology
Tufts Medical Center Boston, MA 02111 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Patients with chronic widespread pain often try many different types of pain medications, anti-depressants, physical therapy, and other approaches, and commonly find that none of these therapies work for them. Finding safe, effective approaches for pain management is an urgent priority. Previous evidence suggested that Tai Chi, a multi-dimensional mind-body practice that integrates physical, psychosocial, and behavioral elements, may be especially suited to address both chronic pain and associated psychological and somatic symptoms. In our most recent study published in the BMJ, we directly compared the effectiveness of Tai Chi versus aerobic exercise, which is a standard care non-drug treatment for fibromyalgia.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? : What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: We found that Tai Chi provides similar or greater benefits compared to a standard care treatment (the current most commonly prescribed non-pharmacological treatment) for patients with fibromyalgia. We also found these therapeutic benefits were consistent across a diverse group of patients regardless of who the Tai Chi instructor was. This suggests that the intervention can be delivered in a wide variety of settings by appropriately trained instructors. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future long term multicenter trials in community settings and different countries are warranted to assess the external validity of our study and better inform clinical practice. In addition, it is well documented that psychosocial variables play a pivotal role in the experience of pain and aberrant opioid taking behaviors. Tai Chi, which can address both the physical and psychological symptoms in chronic pain, may be particularly effective in targeting opioid use and misuse. Of note, both groups in this trial showed reduced use of analgesics over time. Future investigation of mind-body approaches should focus on how these therapies could help reduce the burden associated with long term use of opioid analgesia 

Disclosures: The authors have no conflicts of interest or disclosures related to the work.


Wang C, Schmid CH, Fielding RA, Harvey WF, Reid KF, Price LL, Driban JB, Kalish R, Rones R, McAlindon T. Effect of tai chi versus aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia: a comparative effectiveness randomised controlled trial. The BMJ. 2018, in press


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