Fibromyalgia Pain, Qi, and Tai Ji Practice

Everyone has experienced pain. It has been the subject of inquiry since we first discovered questions! Although we now know about details of nerve endings, synapses, neurochemical transmitters, electron microscopy, brain anatomy, pathways, reflexes, and more, Western science is only now beginning to appreciate the energetic origins of pain. This knowledge, which is truly ancient, can be very useful in explaining and managing pain.

In very simple language, pain results when energy does not flow smoothly. It tends to accumulate, become stagnant, congealed, congested, "stuck". This "stuck stuff" hurts. In western terms, there are accumulations of wastes or toxins due to poor circulation and perfusion of the tissues or irritants that accumulate. In fibromyalgia, the exact chemical culprit has eluded scientific discovery.

In Chinese Medicine, we consider the energy pathways of the body to be like springs, streams, rivers, and seas, and the qi (life force, energy) to behave like water. We understand that obstructions in the pathways can lead to pooling of energy, and this can result in pain. This happens in fairly predictable locations, ie. the 18 common points used to define fibromyalgia.

Encouraging the movement of this "stuck stuff," this stagnant qi, is the basis of many of the useful fibromyalgia therapies. Acupuncture is known to unblock the pathways and restore normal flow. Myofascial release can gently open the tissues and improve lymphatic flow. Imagery can likewise bring local tissue changes.

Tai Ji practice is quite useful. A guiding principle of Tai Ji is what the classics call "suspended headtop." It is as if the very top of our head is being drawn up to heaven like being attached to a bungee cord! When we maintain a suspended headtop and a relaxed upright body, our entire fascial structure hangs from the base of the skull like a silk curtain. As we rhythmically turn from our waist (folding and unfolding the hip joint), this fascial curtain can gently flow and unwind, releasing tension, tightness and stuckness throughout the body. Correct teaching of the movements of the form is essential to maximal benefit.

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