Osteoporosis and Taoist Tai Chi® arts
If you have been recently diagnosed or have had it for years, you know that osteoporosis can cause pain, increased risk of bone fractures and problems with alignment, balance, breathing and mobility. Over time it can affect your energy and your enjoyment of life.
Research shows that Tai Chi helps people who have osteoporosis. With Taoist Tai Chi® practice many people have found they can reduce pain, be more balanced and move more freely. Practitioners have stabilized bone density and even increased it along with height. In addition, people practicing Taoist Tai Chi® arts find they have more energy and a feeling of lightness and well-being.
One Person’s Story of Improved Quality of Life through Taoist Tai Chi® practice
My name is Philomena and I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis in my spine since 2014. I thought my independence was disappearing as my spine was so curved that I was in terrible pain and I had little sense of balance. My spirit was crushed and I was frightened. Despite this alien situation I could do my Taoist Tai Chi® practice, and slowly the pain decreased. Taoist Tai Chi® arts have straightened my spine; in fact it’s more straight than it was before the spinal fractures arrived! With a straight spine there is less pain and less need for analgesics. I love the sense of freedom of movement which comes with the practice. It is paradoxical, with several weakened and poorly formed vertebrae, that my body should feel strong and powerful when practicing Taoist Tai Chi® arts. It’s not only diligent practice of the form but the whole immersive experience of development within the organisation, as well as the rich heritage of chanting, that give never ending practical support to the body and the mind.
- A variety of populations including perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, older adults, breast cancer survivors, and women with osteoarthritis practiced Tai Chi over several months (at least 24 weeks) and showed reduced bone mineral density loss in the lumbar spine, proximal femur neck, and trochanter.
Zhou, LY., Wang, CY., Chen, K., et al. (2017). The effect of tai chi practice on attenuating bone mineral density loss: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14, 1000
- In a review of the health benefits of Tai Chi, researchers found that bone loss was attenuated and bone fractures were fewer in groups of postmenopausal women practicing Tai Chi compared to typical care.1
- In another study, the slowing of bone loss in weight-bearing bones was similarly reported in postmenupausal women who practiced Tai Chi almost daily for over a year.2
1Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., et. al. (2010). A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. The American Journal of Health Promotion, 24(6), 1-25.
2Chan, KM., Qin, L., Lau, MC., et al (2004). A randomized, prospective study of the effects of Tai Chi Chun exercise on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 85, 717-22.
- This review found that people affected by osteoporosis who practiced Tai Chi found some improvement in their quality of life.
- Evidence included reduced rates of decline in bone mineral density and improved balance, which indirectly improves quality of life and bone health by leading to fewer falls.
Huston, P. and McFarlane, B. (2016). Health benefits of Tai Chi: What is the evidence? Canadian Family Physician, 62, 881-90.
- More than 6000 of 12,000 Taoist Tai Chi®, arts practitioners across Canada responded to a National Health Questionnaire.
- 96% reported improved balance
- 84% reported improved mobility
Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi (2016). Promoting vitality and well-being: How Taoist Tai Chi® arts impact health and reduce stress on public health services.
- Health journalist and former neuroscientist David Cox explains that our bones are living organs that communicate with other organs by producing hormones that circulate in the blood. One such hormone is osteocalcin, which influences many other hormonal processes in the body.
- Declines in bone mass may be linked to weakening muscles and may also be linked to memory and cognitive problems, since these common signs of aging appear to be connected to osteocalcin levels in the blood.
- Studies on mice found that many of these age-related ailments are reversible with increased levels (injections) of osteocalcin. The implications for humans is that maintaining healthy bone hormone levels is important for the health of the whole body and mind. Cox explains that one way of doing this naturally is through exercise, which stimulates your bones to produce more osteocalcin. This can help slow or reverse certain conditions in our older years and can build up a protective effect if practiced regularly from youth.
- Cox’s discussion sheds light on why Tai Chi can be so beneficial for health and health problems – Tai Chi is a weight-bearing exercise that gently and deeply works the bones, which in turn connect to and communicate with every other area of the body to promote overall health.
Cox, D. (2020). Does the key to anti-ageing lie in our bones? The Guardian. theguardian.com/science
Taoist Tai Chi® Practice Improves Bone Health
What are Practitioners with Osteoporosis saying about Taoist Tai Chi® arts?
“In reflecting on how Taoist Tai Chi® practice has helped me in living with severe osteoporosis, I feel so much gratitude. Having suffered numerous painful fragility fractures, I can’t imagine the shape I would be in without Taoist Tai Chi® arts. As a result of my practice, I am now pain free- no neck or back pain or migraines. My posture and balance are improving rather than deteriorating. I have not lost any of my height and am even slightly taller. I no longer feel like I even have an illness; rather I have a growing sense of well being that I never dreamed possible.”
– Meiko, Victoria, Canada
“At 73 I am stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually then when I started Taoist Tai Chi® [arts] at 58. The muscles, ligaments and tendons in my back have realigned. I no longer need osteoporosis meds as my bone density has increased. My right ankle, badly sprained at age 17, has been corrected. I am ¾” taller! I have maintained [my] weight [and my] breathing has improved.”
– Daniel, Ramara, Canada
“Several years ago I had a bone density scan. The results showed early to moderate osteopenia. I had been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and slight scoliosis in the past, and I was in debilitating pain, so this bone scan was particularly important, as it indicated bone loss that might lead to osteoporosis. Shortly thereafter I began Taoist Tai Chi® arts. My latest bone density scan revealed the osteopenia was no longer evident. The scan showed the hip and spine were building bone rather than losing, and I was taller! As for the other spinal health issues, they are no longer causing me pain and discomfort. My endocrinologist/cellular functional medicine/ woman’s health specialist and I agree Taoist Tai Chi® practice has been key to regaining my health at all levels and specifically my bone health.”
– Rose, Surrey, Canada
How Does it Work?
Taoist Tai Chi® arts involve a full range of motion with deep stretching and continuous turning of the spine. They exercise the whole physiology including muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems, as well as tendons, joints, connective tissue and organs. This whole body approach has a profound effect on our health, increasing strength, flexibility and resilience, whatever our condition.
Taoist Tai Chi® arts are also a form of moving meditation that has a deep effect on the brain, calming and clearing the mind.
Move Confidently – Be Active – Be Social