Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tai Chi Reported to Ease Fibromyalgia


The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be effective as a therapy for fibromyalgia, according to a study published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.[...]


  1. Is tai ch'i mutar? Or does the fact that is originates in Daoism and is about redirecting ch'i make it derekh emori?

    Actual avozah zarah I presume not, since it's easy to find a teacher who doesn't discuss it in those terms. I'm just talking about the origins -- like not sending your kids trick-or-treating because of Halloween's origins.


  2. These Far Eastern refuos and other mediums are highly problematic in halacha.

    2 poskim have said that even the benign / less invasive ones are assur.

    While these poskim are controversial for other reasons, I have not heard anyone argue on them in this area.

    Rav Belsky says that any kind of summoning koychos, even just peacefullness with the Feng Shui arrangement of furniture is ossur Mid'Oraysah altz kosem kesomim.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that Yoga is avak Avodah Zarah and assered his chassidim from taking part.

  3. "Is tai ch'i mutar? Or does the fact that is originates in Daoism and is about redirecting ch'i make it derekh emori?"

    The permissibility/propriety of Jews practicing tai chi chuan aside (I do agree that it's a legitimate concern worthy of further investigation), it's worth pointing out that, at least according to the Wikipedia article on it, the notion that tai chi originates in Daoism is far from clear.

  4. I'm not convinced about the avodah zarah aspect. It doesn't appear that working to access chi and have it flow through you is thought by its practitioners to be a devotional/worshipping act, but rather a philosophical/scientific/technical one. Some of the ideas touch on "ultimate" questions on the nature of the universe, but then so does modern physics. Taken to an extreme, one could forbid western medicine and science because Greek/Roman idolaters and Christians (including many priests!) were the major "baalei mesorah" for them. I was once taken to task by an acupuncturist friend of mine when I referred to acupuncture as "alternative medicine" and "spiritual". He sees it, as do apparently most practitioners, as a straight-up therapeutic technique that manipulates well-established laws of the universe for human benefit.

    By the way, I say this as a skeptic with regards to the reality of the phenomenon of chi and the therapeutic effectiveness of chi-based therapies. I think the Chinese-ness of tai-chi and acupuncture makes Jews (along with many Westerners) group it all into an undifferentiated conglomeration of things that are weird/mysterious/foreign/avodah zara. This is a mistake.

    Of course, a lot of our own ba'alei mesorah have had conflicted relationships with medicine in general, in part because of the above considerations, i.e., it takes advantage of fundamental laws of the universe in a way that seems to take G-d out of the equation. Most famously, The Mishnah (Kiddushin 4:14) says "tov shebarofim l'gehinom" (the best of the doctors go to gehinom). Rabbeinu Bachya says that external medicine (i.e., surgery) is mutar but internal medicine is not (I think in his commentary in parshas Mishpatim). In a similar vein, Ramban forbade practical demonology despite his assertion that demons are absolutely real and that experts are capable of manipulating them for human benefit.


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