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Benefits of Tai Chi for Patients with Cancer

Benefits of Tai Chi for Patients with Cancer

2020 - 01 - 12 | Author: Reese Jones

For some people, your healing journey doesn’t have to fully center on pills or traditional medicine. Alternative and holistic healing methods can also promote overall well-being, such as the timeless practice of tai chi. Originating from ancient China, this gentle form of exercise combines slow and deliberate body movements along with meditation and deep breaths. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests that it can be used as a form of complementary therapy for cancer, improving flexibility, strength, balance, and fitness with regular practice [1].

What to Expect

Are you wondering what to expect during your first tai chi session? Breastcancer.org outlines the key components of a tai chi session that your instructor might teach you [2] 

Movements: Tai chi movements are practiced in a series called a “form” or routine, and tend to be grouped in pairs of opposites — “a twist to the right is followed by a twist to the left.” Depending on your physical abilities, you and your instructor should work together to decide what forms are most beneficial for you.

Forms: A form can include around 20 and 100 movements, taking up to a total of 20 minutes to perform. Don’t worry, because you can always start slow and focus on specific movements before learning to complete a whole form.

Breathing: One of the most important aspects of tai chi is focusing on your breathing as you move, which originates in the area of the diaphragm.

Meditative concentration: Simultaneously, you will attempt to keep your mind focused in a state of relaxed concentration, called "meditative concentration," centered on the area just below the navel.

Cancer-Related Benefits

For patients with cancer, Conquer Magazine suggests that tai chi can help alleviate many of the side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment [3]:

Improve balance: Patients with cancer often have difficulty with balancing due to weakness from cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment, for instance, neuropathy (tingling and numbness in the hands and feet). Tai chi promotes safety through stances that improve balance and reduce the risk of accidental falls.

Reduce muscle and joint pain: Muscle and joint pain are common effects of treatment, making it hard for patients to be active. However, the slow and fluid movements of tai chi can help remedy this.

Promote clear thinking and focus: Patients receiving chemotherapy tend to report blurry thinking and an inability to focus. Through meditative breathing, patients report a clearer mind after practicing tai chi.

Increased energy: Exhaustion and fatigue is another side effect of cancer. Tai chi helps improve the body’s energy flow, making it easier for patients to undergo treatment and become more resilient to its after effects.

Things to consider before trying Tai Chi

Although tai chi is a low impact exercise with few risks, it is always important to consult your care team before joining a class, start slow, and know your limits. Many of today’s caregivers have confidence in alternative cancer treatments, due to the fact that top colleges and universities have already embraced these holistic concepts. Maryville University has put a spotlight on the value of holistic methods of caregiving and report that there is an increasing number of opportunities in this field [4]. The university explains how “nurse practitioners take a whole-person approach to patient care, encouraging appropriate medical choices and healthy lifestyle habits.” This means a lot of modern-day medical professionals now approach their role from a compassionate based perspective in order to provide patients with the best care possible outside of traditional treatments.

In fact, a recent study from an article by CGTN suggests that tai chi can significantly improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients[5]. According to Dr. Karen Mustian lead researcher from the University of Rochester Medical Center, “When you interject something like tai chi into that, the response that manages the inflammation that comes from the disease and treatments is bolstered, such that the body can actually create an anti-inflammatory response to return the body to a normal functioning state.”

For more information on the positive impacts of meditation, feel free to check out our previous article on ‘Fighting Cancer through Meditation’[6].

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References:
[1] https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/complementary-therapies/tai-chi/?region=bc
[2] https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/tai_chi [3] https://conquer-magazine.com/issues/2015/vol-1-no-6-december-2015/286-the-benefits-of-tai-chi-and-qigong-for-patients-with-cancer
[3]https://conquer-magazine.com/issues/2015/vol-1-no-6-december-2015/286-the-benefits-of-tai-chi-and-qigong-for-patients-with-cancer
[4] https://online.maryville.edu/online-masters-degrees/master-science-nursing/
[5] https://america.cgtn.com/2019/02/06/research-finds-tai-chi-could-improve-quality-of-life-for-breast-cancer-patients
[6] https://www.beatcancer.org/blog-posts/fighting-cancer-through-meditation?A=SearchResult&SearchID=10247179&ObjectID=13411808&ObjectType=35

 



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