Have Fibromyalgia?  Study Finds Significant Improvement in Pain Perception, Vitality and Mental Health from Ai Chi Therapy

Have Fibromyalgia? Study Finds Significant Improvement in Pain Perception, Vitality and Mental Health from Ai Chi Therapy

By Staff

Ai Chi is a water-based strengthening and relaxation therapy that may help people with fibromyalgia (FM) achieve improved mental and physical health while also increasing quality of life, according to a study published in the July 2016 issue of the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

According to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), “Ai Chi bridges East and West philosophies by integrating physical, mental and spiritual energies. It combines Tai-Chi concepts with Shiatsu and Watsu techniques, and is performed standing in shoulder-depth water using a combination of deep breathing and slow, broad movements of the arms, legs, and torso. The Ai Chi progression moves from simple breathing, to the incorporation of upper-extremity, trunk, lower-extremity, and finally total body involvement.”

Sagrario Pérez de la Cruz of the Department of Nursing, Physiotherapy and Medicine at the University of Almería, in Almería, Spain, and colleague, Johan Lambeck of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Lovaina, in Lovaina, Belgium, aimed to investigate the effects of Ai Chi on the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of people with FM.  An experimental pilot study was conducted with 20 females (aged 45 to 70) diagnosed with FM and recruited from two different clinics.  The Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and the Short Form-36 (SF-36) were used to measure physical and mental health scores, or health-related quality of life.  Measurements were taken at the beginning of the study and again after completion of 10 treatment sessions, each lasting 45 minutes twice a week for 10 weeks.

The results of the pilot study are promising, and warrant additional research.

“After 10 treatment sessions, significant improvements (P < 0.05) were found in practically all the variables under study, with significant differences in values such as pain perception, vitality, mental health, as well as perceived overall improvement in quality of life,” the authors wrote.

The study concluded that “A water-based Ai Chi program may contribute to the improvement of mental and physical health and the quality of life in women with FMS.”

The study was funded by the University of Almería.

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Authored by: Staff

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A friend has a pool that he keeps at 100° and I have found it it to be very helpful, the temperature combined with moving in the water.

I wish we could have a forum or message board here to connect and exchange experiences and ideas.

Jean Price

If it was in a pool heated to the standards supposed to be kept to qualify for teaching Arthritis water classes, which is 88 to 90, it might be acceptable. But many aren’t, in my experience…because lap swimmers don’t like it this warm. I can’t help but wonder if the improvements had more to do with the socialization rather than the techniques taught!!! Especially since those who live with persistent, life limiting pain usually are impacted by decreased social times. How they could determine specifically which one helped would be interesting to me, since most people I’ve ever talked with in artritis classes would say they continued them for the comraderie…and not their pain improvement! But every little bit of life helps!!


The local community center has what was built as a therapeutic pool but quit heating it years ago making it worse than useless for me. They do have a jacuzzi that I enjoy when I can use it without bubbles! I live an hour out of town and do not drive because of medical issues making it a real hardship to even get to my Dr once a month without adding trips to town for therapy especially when the little benefit I derive from it is very transient. Sometimes the best option is simply pain meds.


This would be fantastic is (big if) it were widely available. For instance, my local recreation facility, which offers yearly membership just under $1000 a year (not kidding) has aquatics programs, however the pool is a cold water pool. Not very helpful for my pain. I can attest to this as a fact. The Lifetime gym, whose yearly membership is just over $1000 yearly, does have an indoor warm water pool & would likely be open to implementing this Ai Chi program if they saw enough interest, but the closest facility is too far away to make it worth my while. There is a local physical therapy group who offers many classes at their private warm water facility, however you must have a referral from your doctor and pay the usual copay for PT…
No matter how you look at it, unless communities are willing to take the initiative to install the equipment (warm water pools, which they could probably get grant $ for because of arthritis, a condition that people actually get behind) and offer the programs (so many communities, especially smaller ones, do not).
And it’s not very cost effective unless it’s actually prescribed by a doctor & good luck with that. My doctor told me at my last visit that I need to lose weight (5’2″ & 128) and exercise more (despite PEM) & that as far as he knows, FMS won’t kill me nor cause any permanent damage….
So I don’t think we are really all on the same page here. Glad researchers are doing their thing, but there should be more of a push to bring the medical community (front line doctors) up to speed about how this is a very serious condition and stuffing us full of Lyrica and acting as if we are simply sore and kinda tired is utter and complete BS.

Kimberly Fox

Where can I find Ai Chi ? I live near Ann Arbor MI. This sounds perfect for me along with my chronic back pain. I’d love to help my depression since I can’t take meds


Treatment for one can be pure torture for others. Not to mention that this type of “therapy” is not available every where.

Jeremy Goodwin, MS, MD

I would, whenever possible, integrate Tai Chi and / or pool therapy into a multi-modal and integrative approach to caring for my patients with fibromyalgia. To see it properly integrated in this manner is exciting to me.