Tai Chi and Hypermobility Syndrome
As a Tai Chi Instructor I live with the genetic defect Hypermobility Syndrome (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome). You can read my personal journey living with EDS here. The really good news is that Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Meditation are all recommended ways to help gently aid the symptoms. I changed career becoming a Tai Chi and Qigong instructor as my physical health went through many changes. I chose to adapt my life to try to be gracefully productive. I can no longer stay seated, walk, lie down or do any activity for long periods, as these all lead to chronic/acute pain, reduced mobility, excessive muscular contraction and fatigue.
Over these years, the gentle and powerful movements helped me to maintain my mobility, manage chronic pain and chronic fatigue. During 2015 my symptoms sadly increased which led me to close my community school at the end of that year. This was a very difficult decision to make as a response to the physical degeneration of EDS. I now teach Tai Chi, Qigong and Taoist meditation to groups and private students online via Zoom. This re-framing of my school allows me to continue sharing my passion of the Classical Chinese arts, yet in a much more manageable way. Living with EDS is about adaptation, compassion and grit. It's a very difficult journey to be on and my heart goes out to you all.
Read more on Tai Chi and Qigong training for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome here.
Hypermobility is an invisible condition, no one knows what it means for an individual. I certainly don't act like I am 'sick' and I don't move like a typical 'ill person'. No one can see what goes on in my body, the effect on the bones, veins, muscles, organs and connective tissue, the lack of healing and ease of injury, nor the mark it leaves trying to live a normal life.
This video discusses EDS and 'new and emerging manual therapies'. It mentions the benefit of qigong and tai chi, along with breathing exercises.
- Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
- Hypermobility Syndrome is a genetic connective tissue disorder caused by a collagen defect
- Connective and soft tissues are more elastic
- Joints move beyond their normal range of motion (double jointed)
- Causes joint instability
- Hyperextension of joints
- Connective tissue, soft tissue, vascular and dermal weakness due to lack of collagen
- Vascular, digestive, urinary dysfunction
- Varying degrees of acute and chronic pain
- Unpredictable and ease of injury; sprain, dislocation, partial dislocation, torn muscles, torn skin, bruises
- Chronic muscular contraction
- Posture/joints cannot support the body, the body 'collapses' on itself
- Joint pain when weight/pressure applied for too long a time period in one position e.g. sleeping / sitting
- Leads to chronic fatigue from muscular exhaustion, constant pain and the constant need to move/adjust the posture.
- Early onset of arthritis
- Low level of proprioception (knowing where you body is in space or knowing how your limbs are oriented to your body)
- Secondary symptoms are noted in detail in this Hypermobility Syndrome Blog
The Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong Practice for Hypermobility EDS
The Hypermobility Blogspot recommends Tai Chi (and in turn Qi Gong) as recommended exercises for the syndrome as this falls in the category of "joint-healthy physical activities". Tai Chi and Qi Gong are low impact, gentle yet powerful movements that aid all body systems including joint health.
The slow meditative practice also helps to improve proprioception by building up a heightened sense of body awareness. This is important in hypermobility syndrome so that you can learn to align your posture correctly without exaggerating the over extension of the joints.
Meditation is also recommended to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, depression and physical tension.
Tai Chi is also recommended by Dr. Alan G. Pocinki who wrote a medical paper titled "Joint Hypermobility and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome". He stated "AVOID high-impact exercises, such as sports that involve running, jumping, or physical contact. Swimming or water exercises, walking, Pilates, and Tai Chi are good choices. Some forms of yoga are OK, but others are not." These ideas are echoed in the article "Pain in the Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS)" by Dr. Jaime F. Bravo, Rheumatology-Osteoporosis.
Hypermobility Syndrome Resources
* Please note that the Taoist practices are not a replacement for conventional medical treatment. Please speak with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise programme. This article is for information purposes only and must not be taken as medical advice. *