Sunday, May 20, 2018
Health

Tai chi instructor says movements eased her pain, asthma

DUNEDIN

In a large room in the Hale Activity Center, about a dozen people are moving their arms and legs to the sound of silence. Only the soft voice of their instructor, Debbie Nemeth, occasionally breaks in. • "If you can't kick higher just do a small kick," she says, demonstrating. "The most important thing right now is your balance." • Nemeth, 53, is a certified tai chi instructor who knows about regaining balance and health. Five years ago, she spent much of her days in bed or a recliner, barely able to move without a walker. • Since her 40s, she had been diagnosed with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic migraines, chronic back and neck pain, anxiety and depression. By 2006 she had to retire. A physician told her she'd likely need a wheelchair. • Desperate for help, Nemeth remembered an article on Taoist tai chi she had put aside years earlier. Now was the time to look into it. She contacted the Taoist Tai Chi Society in 2008 and signed up.

• • •

Though tai chi is a martial art, to the uninitiated it looks like a graceful, synchronized dance.

The Taoist form of tai chi originated with monks in ancient China and is taught worldwide. It is characterized by 108 moves that stretch and train all parts of the body. Practitioners feel a resistance similar to using weights, though they use only their own bodies.

The sequence, often called a moving meditation, takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The practice is easy on the knees and hips, and eases psychological stress too.

The gentle nature of the practice makes it particularly well-suited to people with physical limitations, particularly older folks like Nemeth's students. But young athletes in top shape also are tai chi enthusiasts.

Results are gradual, Nemeth said, but impressive.

"After only three months I noticed changes in my mobility,' she said. "I was able to go from my walker to a cane and was very excited."

Taking up to three 90-minute classes a week, Nemeth found her pain and other symptoms improved. She even stopped most of her asthma medications.

"Tai chi has helped me handle everything better," she said. "It has been phenomenal."

• • •

Several women in Nemeth's class at the Hale Center shared similar stories. Clearwater resident Marlene Sherman, 70, enrolled three years ago.

"I was dealing with depression, bad arthritis and issues with balance," she said.

"I've noticed I am less depressed, more flexible and just generally feel better."

Doris Thomas, 72, of Dunedin has been attending Nemeth's class for seven months.

"I still have (balance) problems," she said, "but it is definitely improving."

Nemeth's pain management specialist, Dr. Lynne Carr Columbus, says her patient has come far.

"I have seen a definite improvement in Debbie's overall functionality since she has incorporated tai chi into her pain management program," said Columbus. "She also exhibits much less anxiety."

A growing body of medical research has found that tai chi, in conjunction with traditional treatment, improves balance and quality of life.

A small 2006 study at Stanford University found that older tai chi students "showed improvement in both lower body and upper body strength."

Tufts University researchers in 2008 found that an hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning in people with knee osteoarthritis better than standard stretching exercises. A small group of Parkinson's patients improved their balance, walking ability and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions, a small study at Washington University found.

Similar small studies worldwide have linked tai chi with better bone density and heart health.

Nemeth says tai chi has taught her that she can take charge of her own health. Her next project is her diet. "Take little baby steps," she tells her class.

"Five years ago I came in here on a walker and couldn't do any of it, but here I am today."

Elaine Markowitz can be reached at [email protected]

 
Comments
U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. regulators Thursday approved the first drug designed to prevent chronic migraines. The Food and Drug Administration’s action clears the monthly shot Aimovig (AIM’-oh-vig) for sale. It’s the first in a new class of long-acting dru...
Published: 05/18/18
Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day, and the American Medical Association is encouraging people to monitor their blood pressure levels and get high blood pressure, or hypertension, under control. High blood pressure, sometimes referred to as the...
Published: 05/17/18
Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Women having trouble getting pregnant sometimes try yoga, meditation or mindfulness, and some research suggests that psychological stress may affect infertility. But what about men: Does their mental state affect a couple’s ability to conceive?The la...
Published: 05/17/18
Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

TAMPA—Tampa General Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in America for the fifth consecutive year, and second best in Florida, according to one health industry website.Tampa General is considered the best hospital in the Tampa area, accor...
Published: 05/16/18
Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Even though a circuit judge has ruled that Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner can grow and juice his own marijuana, he was barred from doing so until the appeals process is finished.So Redner’s lawyers filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court o...
Published: 05/15/18
Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Over the span of three weeks, Brenda Gotlen watched as her abdomen got bigger. Her lower stomach felt bloated."It got to the point that I looked nine months pregnant," said Gotlen, a 62-year-old Seffner resident. She made an appointment to see her pr...
Published: 05/15/18
Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

As some insurers angle for hefty premium hikes and concerns grow that more Americans will wind up uninsured, the federal health law is likely — once again — to play big in both parties’ strategies for the contentious 2018 election.Candidates are alre...
Published: 05/15/18
Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

When he was 14, James Harrison needed surgery. And as he would come to find out, he would also need a significant amount ofstrangers’ blood to survive it.After he had recovered and as soon as he became an adult, Harrison felt compelled to pay it forw...
Published: 05/14/18
UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide

UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide

NEW YORK — The World Health Organization has released a plan to help countries wipe out trans fats from the global food supply in the next five years. The United Nations agency has in the past pushed to exterminate infectious diseases, but now it’s a...
Published: 05/14/18
Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy, high blood pressure in children

Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy, high blood pressure in children

High blood pressure typically occurs in adulthood, so when children develop the condition, it often means something is very wrong. A child might have kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or a heart problem. Obesity can also be a factor.But what about seem...
Published: 05/14/18