The August 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported that Tai chi may be a helpful intervention for patients with fibromyalgia. "Previous research has suggested that tai chi offers a therapeutic benefit in patients with fibromyalgia," wrote Chenchen Wang, MDl. "...[Tai chi] combines meditation with slow, gentle, graceful movements, as well as deep breathing and relaxation, to move vital energy (or qi) throughout the body. It is considered a complex, multicomponent intervention that integrates physical, psychosocial, emotional, spiritual, and behavioral elements."
66 participants were randomly assigned to receive classic Yang-style tai chi or a control intervention consisting of wellness education and stretching. In both groups, participants received 60-minute sessions twice weekly for 12 weeks. Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score at the end of 12 weeks was the main study outcome, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms. There were additional test to measure other aspects of outcome. To assess durability of the response, these tests were performed again at 24 weeks.
Improvements in the FIQ total score and quality of life in the tai chi group were clinically important. The tai chi group also fared better than the wellness intervention group in physical component scores of the Short-Form Health Survey and mental component scores. These improvements were still present at 24 weeks with no reported adverse events. Limitations of this study include lack of double blinding, lack of generalizability because treatment was delivered by a single tai chi master at a single center, and follow-up limited to 24 weeks.