Some mesothelioma treatment options available to you are chemotherapy, radiation therapy and, for certain individuals, surgery. However, as with any cancer, these treatments often come with side effects, such as fatigue, nausea and body aches – all of which are additional burdens to the symptoms already present because of the asbestos-induced disease.
At Mesothelioma Circle, we believe that it never hurts to try alternative therapies that can complement the standard forms of medicine that you receive. One promising approach is tai chi.
A martial art becomes a healing art
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) describes tai chi as an ancient Chinese practice that was originally designed as a form of self-defense. It includes principles such as yin and yang, which are opposing forces within the body, and the concept of qi, which represents the life force.
As legend has it, a Taoist monk formulated tai chi positions by imitating the movements of animals. These movements are very slow and deliberate, requiring both physical control and strong focus.
Tai chi can help mesothelioma patients with symptoms
Despite its roots in martial arts, practitioners eventually realized that the regimen came with certain health benefits. Specifically, tai chi helps maintain muscle strength and flexibility, which can deteriorate during cancer treatment if eating proves to be difficult. Furthermore, tai chi helps improve joint pain, quality of sleep and coordination, which is important for the prevention of accidental falls. Furthermore, small scientific studies suggest that tai chi is beneficial for blood pressure, the immune system and overall physical function.
The NCCAM estimated that 2.3 million adults in the U.S. practiced tai chi in 2007, which was the last year when such data was available. Scientists around the world continue to study its positive effects on health.
Use caution when exercising
The American Cancer Society touts the benefits of physical activity for people who are undergoing treatment for malignant diseases. These individuals often find it difficult to pull themselves out of bed. While rest is important, too much of it can lead to complications such as joint stiffness, muscle weakness, constipation and breathing difficulties. Stress and fatigue are common, as well.
Tai chi has the potential to help you with several of these problems. However, as with any physical activity, it is important that you practice caution.
Remember that tai chi is meant to be a complementary form of therapy and cannot replace standard medicine. Before you decide to start a tai chi regimen, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare team in order to determine whether it is appropriate for you.
In the U.S., tai chi instructors are not subject to any regulations or license requirements. This can make it tricky to find a reliable teacher. However, individuals are traditionally not allowed to become instructors without the approval of a master teacher, the NCCAM stated. When looking at a potential class, be sure to discuss your instructor’s credentials or certification.
Alternatively, you can ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a reputable tai chi class.
In general, tai chi is safe for most individuals. However, once you are in class, you must remember to follow the teacher’s instructions in order to execute the movements correctly and safely without overexerting yourself. Experts from the MD Anderson Cancer Center note that patients who have balance problems are particularly in need for supervision when starting a tai chi regimen.