One thing Santa Monica spine surgeons know is that chronic neck pain patients often face a dilemma. Keeping a neck affected by inflammation, soft tissue damage, or issues with discs, joints, or vertebrae perfectly still can weaken supporting muscles and exacerbate pain. On the other hand, too much motion may increase the risk of making the problem worse. A possible solution is trying slower, controlled-movement disciplines like tai chi. A recent study offers further evidence to suggest this ancient Chinese form of exercise may benefit people with chronic neck pain.
Tai Chi vs. Therapeutic Neck Exercises
A Harvard Medical School study looked at 114 subjects with chronic neck pain to determine how tai chi compared to traditional therapeutic neck exercises. After three months, it was determined that tai chi helped people effectively manage their chronic neck pain. Researchers concluded that tai chi was also a viable option for patients looking to correct posture-related neck issues and enhance their overall quality of life.
Tai chi involves both high and low stances and dramatic, slow postures. Specifically, the focus on correct form and posture may ease chronic neck pain, which is sometimes worsened by poor posture. Improvements with posture could also ease pressure on sensitive nerve roots in the neck near the cervical vertebrae.
The emphasis on slow, controlled breathing with tai chi can also increase circulation. When blood flows better, it can contribute to the natural healing of irritated or inflamed tissues in the neck area.
Safe, Low-Impact Exercise
The ideal type of exercise for chronic neck pain is anything low impact in nature. Because tai chi’s movements are so controlled and not forced, it’s considered a safe form of exercise for most patients with persistent issues with neck pain, as long as proper form is maintained.
Stress Relief and Mood Improvements
Chronic neck pain can often be a source of stress, irritability, and fatigue. All of these factors can also affect mood and the way people with chronic neck pain perceive their pain. When practiced correctly and on a regular basis, tai chi can naturally ease stress, which often results in neck-supporting muscles that are less tense and more flexible. Chronic neck pain patients practicing tai chi may also benefit from:
• Less reliance on pain medications, including those with potentially serious side effects
• Increased energy and stamina
• Better flexibility and balance
• Lower blood pressure, which can also increase circulation
• Healthier sleep habits and patterns, which may further boost mood and ease stress
If you are new to tai chi, consider taking a class after getting the okay from your doctor so you can learn proper techniques and form. Work gradually through the postures and remain relaxed and focused. Once you learn the basics, find time to perform the exercises on a regular basis to increase your odds of managing your pain. When time is limited, you can still practice tai chi’s mind-body concepts without going through the movements.
When holistic treatments aren’t curing your neck pain, you may want to consider surgical options such as cervical artificial disc replacement surgery. Santa Monica patients who are living with chronic neck pain should contact The Spine Institute to find out what their options are for finding relief. Call 310-828-7757 today.