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Senior Correspondent

The first item in today's back pain blog post is about the first randomized, controlled trial aimed at investigating the effects of the ancient art of tai chi on the reduction of pain and disability. In particular its effects on low back pain.

In a report by Jennifer Davis on the arthritis today website, an Australian study, conducted by Chris Maher, a professor at the University of Sydney, and a director of the George Institute for Global Health, seems to show that people with low back pain experienced a 25 percent reduction in their pain intensity when they completed tai chi programs.

Most of the participants agreed that the reduction in pain was a worthwhile result. The study involved 160 persistent low back pain sufferers between the ages of 18 and 70. All having pain of an unspecified origin for at least three months. This is typical of 90 to 95 percent of back pain cases.

78 of the study group took part in 40-minute tai chi classes twice a week for eight weeks, then once a week for two weeks. The remainder of the group continued with their usual fitness and health routines.

After ten weeks the tai chi group reported a 23 percent improvement for pain and a 32 percent improvement for disability. While the control group reported an increase in pain levels.

This seems to me quite a significant result, and the fact that tai chi is a gentle, non-impact form of discipline, suitable for all ages, makes me wonder why more people in the western world haven’t taken it up.

I don’t do New Year resolutions, but I’m thinking I might just find a local tai chi group and have a go myself. If you are interested in reading the full report use this link.

Bend Your Knees to Avoid Back Pain

I’m always interested in practical tips and advice that I can incorporate into my regime, so when I found this article by Dr. Mark Kestner on murfreesboropost.com I thought I would share it.

He bases this article on the old premise that we should bend our knees when we lift anything. Sound advice, as he agrees. However his suggestion is to get into the habit of routinely bending the knees when you pick anything up at all, even a pen. Dr. Kestner says that by developing this habit you have a greatly reduced chance of injuring your lower back.

It can be difficult, as we lose strength and flexibility in our legs as we age, so we tend, most of us, to bend at the hips rather than squatting to pick anything up. But it is worth the effort, and does get easier with practice.

He goes on to say that even if you already have back problems (most of us I suppose) developing the habit of bending at the knees can help restore spinal health and avoid future problems.

To read what he has to say in full, including his description and recommendation of one of the most simple and effective basic back exercises, click here.

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