Practicing slow movement techniques and diaphragmatic breathing has the following effects:
- Increases relaxation
- Decreases muscular tension
- Improves symptom management
It also facilitates recovery from problems associated with:
- Low back pain and scoliosis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Musculoskeletal surgery
- Sports injuries
These techniques have also been used successfully to improve balance and improve symptoms associated with chronic disorders such as:
- Rheumatologic diseases
- Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)
- Tai Chi has been show to improve:
- Osteoarthritis symptoms
- Tension levels
- Satisfaction with general health status
Tai chi has also been shown to increase lower-extremity muscle strength and endurance. Tai chi and Ai Chi follow the same precepts of slow, fluid, rhythmic movement with controlled breathing that can positively affect postural stability and falls in the elderly. Several studies have examined the effects of Tai Chi on balance and on the risk of falls in older people.
In one survey of people age 70 and older, those who participated in Tai Chi training reported improvements in their daily activities, whereas others who participated in balance training alone reported no such improvements (Natural Standard).
A 2004 study clearly demonstrated that Tai Chi training could lead to statistically significant improvements in functional balance in older persons. In another study, researchers observed that Tai Chi practice is valuable for improving physical balance.
Long-term practice of Tai Chi can improve muscular strength in the lower body, particularly around the knees and ankles, as much as long-term jogging, according to another published study.
Another study found that Tai Chi participants had stronger feelings of self-efficacy and less fear of falling than did older adults who did not practice Tai Chi. These findings are good news for elderly who are looking for gentle movement alternatives that provide powerful conditioning benefits.
Dynamic balance ability is an independent predictor of quality of life so if older-adult practitioners of Tai Chi are stronger, feel more confident, and experience less fear than their peers do, they are likely to experience a higher quality of life than those who do not have the same level of conditioning.
Ai Chi creates musculoskeletal benefits that are derived from the effects of:
- Gentle and controlled movement
- Coordinated breathing
People who experience back, neck, or shoulder pain unresponsive to other interventions may find respiration to be the missing link. A key part of many head, neck, and shoulder pain syndromes may be secondary inspiratory muscle overuse.
Diaphragmatic breathing can cultivate:
- Myofascial function
- Lumbopelvic stabilization
The stress response to pain traditionally increases muscle tension, which usually leads to more pain. Diaphragmatic breathing can decrease the stress response.
The Ai Chi coordination of breathing and movement allows muscles to produce graceful, flowing movements of the trunk and extremities. This activity can lead to development of core control and alignment for all movement, not only Ai Chi movements.
Alignment, balance, and stabilization skills can be improved with properly trained slow movement techniques. Balance learned in the water (an unstable medium) translates well to land.
Along with arthrokinematic effects, the active Ai Chi motions recruit specific muscle groups and preserve the contractile property of soft tissues. Relaxation done before range of motion will lower or eliminate monosynaptic spinal reflex.
Submerging the joints lessens the joint compression and edema. The properties of water combined with the Ai Chi movements can improve the range of motion and overall mobility. From a musculoskeletal viewpoint, range of motion is an effective means of maintaining the integrity of connective and soft-tissue structures.