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Moving Meditation: Tai Chi for Arthritis Relief

Gentle movements of the ancient Chinese exercise tai chi are one of many alternatives to help elderly people find pain relief.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

The movements of tai chi are gentle, graceful, mystical -- and, for elderly people, a very safe way to relieve arthritis pain and gain balance, strength, and flexibility. Tai chi is one of many alternative therapies that can provide relief from pain, possibly letting you cut back on pain medications.

Early mornings in large and small cities in China - and increasingly in America's parks, hospitals, and community centers - people are practicing tai chi. It is an ancient tradition said to have developed in medieval China, to help restore health of monks in poor physical condition from too much meditation and too little exercise.

Chi (pronounced chee) is the Chinese word for energy. In the healing arts, tai chi is used to promote the movement of energy through the body -- similar to blood being pumped through the body, explains Cate Morrill, a certified tai chi instructor in Atlanta. Morrill spends much of her time in teaching classes for seniors, many of whom are unfamiliar with this practice. "But after five, 10, 15 minutes of tai chi, they report having pain relief," she tells WebMD.

Virtually all major health organizations - including the Arthritis Foundation -- recommend tai chi as an activity for seniors because it provides balance of body and mind.