Tai Chi may help veterans mitigate PTSD symptoms

Tai Chi may help veterans mitigate PTSD symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness affecting those who have experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, sexual abuse, accidents or a natural calamity. Most people with PTSD have to deal with the intrusive memories associated with the traumatic incident which can have far-reaching consequences such as emotional distress, loneliness, feeling of guilt and hopelessness, or other self-destructive behavior.

As per a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), nearly seven to eight percent of the American population will experience PTSD in their lifetime. But, when it comes to the U.S. veterans, the situation can be significantly alarming, with nearly 23 percent of them affected by PTSD, probably due to their exposure to life-threatening experiences.

Health benefits of practicing Tai Chi

Given the fact that the war veterans are exposed to extremely distressing events, in comparison to the civilians, their PTSD rates are much higher. Recently, VA reported that 30 percent of the veterans who served in the Vietnam War experienced PTSD at some point in their lives.

A December 2016 study, published in the journal BMJ Open, suggested that practicing Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese exercise which incorporates breathing, meditation and slow movements, could be helpful in managing PTSD symptoms in the veterans. Prior studies have documented numerous health benefits of this technique, such as higher energy levels, improved muscle strength, reduced inflammation and better heart health, as well as a decline in anxiety and depression.

Led by Barbara Niles (Ph.D.), an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, and her colleagues, the current study investigated the role of Tai Chi in managing PTSD. Therapists usually manage PTSD using a combination of medications and counseling, which, at times, may not be beneficial in curbing the devastating symptoms. Tai Chi, on the other hand, has the potential to ease trauma-related ailments of veterans, said the researchers.

Veterans expressed willingness to join Tai Chi program

The study population comprised 17 veterans (11 males and 6 females) who had PTSD symptoms. The participants were inducted into an elementary Tai Chi program which had Tai Chi sessions once a week, for a duration of four weeks. The session commenced with a warm-up and a self-massage, followed by a review of Tai-Chi principles such as movement, breathing and relaxation. Each participant was also motivated to practice Tai Chi every day, for at least 30 minutes, for the entire duration of the study.

After the completion of four sessions, the veterans were presented with a questionnaire inquiring about their satisfaction level after the completion of the four weeks. The results revealed that 93.8 percent participants were mostly or exceedingly content with the program and they also rated Tai Chi as “good” or “excellent”. Moreover, 68.8 percent veterans reported that Tai chi enabled them to efficiently manage their concerns. All the participants, in fact, expressed a willingness to join Tai Chi program in the future as well.

Since the veterans were sufficiently satisfied and looked forward to participating in future programs, additional research is warranted to empirically evaluate Tai Chi for the symptomatic management of PTSD. The researchers noted that the study sample size was small, and some of the participants reported only mild symptoms of PTSD, which implies that these results may not apply to larger populations of veterans with the disorder.

Road to recovery

While experiential therapies such as yoga and Tai Chi are emerging as effective ways to achieve symptomatic management of PTSD, it is important to seek professional help when the situation does not improve, even after incorporating self-help strategies.

If you or your loved one is battling PTSD, or any anxiety disorder, and have been looking for effective treatment options, you may get in touch with the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California for inputs about one of the best PTSD treatment centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-972-9459 or chat online for further assistance on anxiety treatment centers in California.

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