Using Tai Chi to Recover from Injuries



If you get injured, sometimes the worst thing you can do is get too much rest. Most people have heard of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), the acronym that is helpful and tasty-sounding. Those four steps are important following an injury, especially if there is swelling. But don’t take Rest to mean a 3-day catatonic stupor of Netflix and Halloween candy. The Rest portion of this prescription means reduce your normal activity for the injured part of your body.

In fact, it is good to start moving the injured part of your body as soon as possible. Start gently and build up day by day, being careful not to overdo it. This will help keep healthy blood flowing to the injury, and waste products moving out. It will reduce the amount of scar tissue that forms after an injury, and help loosen the muscles. (DISCLAIMER: I am not your doctor. If you have a serious injury, or an injury that is not getting better, please see your doctor.)

Tai Chi is a great way to accomplish these simple goals while recovering from an injury or surgery. Originally developed as a form of self-defense in ancient China, Tai Chi has evolved into a gentle form of exercise. Based on slow movements and deep breathing, Tai Chi is ideal for all ages and body types. It is often referred to as moving meditation. But a growing body of evidence shows that Tai Chi does much more than calm the mind.

The health benefits of Tai Chi are numerous. Tai Chi has been proven to aid in faster healing and help prevent future injuries. It increases strength in the upper and lower body, while also increasing flexibility. Tai Chi improves balance and reduces your chance of falling.

When combined with standard treatments, Tai Chi can help manage many health conditions. These include heart disease, sleep problems, breast cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure and stroke. Many people report a heightened sense of well-being when they include Tai Chi in their lives. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Tai Chi is exceptionally effective at reducing the symptoms of depression. It also improves energy and stamina.

In addition to these health benefits, Tai Chi is very easy to start doing. It requires no special equipment and can be done indoors or out. Classes are happening all over Portland. You can also find free instructional videos online, or at your local library. If you have an injury, make sure you tell the instructor. A good teacher will be able to modify movements for you.

If swelling returns to an injured area, you probably overdid it. Reduce movement of the area, apply ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time, wrap the area if it seems to help (that’s the Compression piece), and prop it up on a couple pillows to help fluid drain out. Rest for a little bit of time, but then get some movement going.

Mercy Strongheart grew up in Northern New Mexico. The child of radical, hippie folk musicians, she spent her childhood making up stories and searching for sugar. Mercy is currently working on her second novel and writing freelance articles about things she likes, including hiking, bicycling, health, and watching extreme sports from afar. She has also been a Licensed Massage Therapist for the past 13 years (hence her know-it-all fitness articles). She lives in Portland.