Managing Chronic Pain with Tai Chi

After speaking with a tai chi instructor Helen Lau briefly on the phone approximately four years ago, regarding various tai chi forms and schools, it became quite evident to me that the Ji Hong Tai Chi School had a serious commitment to its students regarding the ensurance of appropriate teachings of tai chi.  This devotion was very transparent throughout our initial conversation, and remains consistent until this day during the daily teachings of tai chi with all of the instructors at the Ji Hong school.

When I first arrived at the Ji Hong Tai Chi School in Richmond Hill Ontario, I was very frail.  I was bedridden for the last 6 months.  I could hardly speak, and had difficulty eating because my jaw was very tight due to the intensity of the neuropathic pain that derived from my neck.

With tremendous effort I slowly tried Tai Chi and I must say the idea of ‘moving my body’ was and sometimes still ‘is’ very frightening.  The first day I arrived with an attendant, I could hardly lift my arms. Helen Lau, stood by my side throughout the first session, and in her gentle way supported me throughout the class.

When practicing Tai Chi, I cannot do the kicks easily and I become dizzy from the spins so I do them in a much smaller scale.  There was an incident for one of the forms where you have to turn and raise your arms above shoulder height, which is painful for me to do, so the Chief instructor Sifu Bao Sen Liang said “Don’t think of Raising your hand-just think of Raising your elbow”, and it worked.  It was almost like trying to trick my brain in order to manage my fear of pain.

Eventually, I improved my strength & muscle control, and agility.  The neck spasm is still present but the symptoms are less intense during and immediately after the tai chi session.  For this I must express my gratitude to my instructors Sifu Bao Sen Liang and May Rahnema, for their steadfast patience and profound knowledge of tai chi.

Julie Feldman