Improve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Tai Chi
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) occurs in about 0.2% of the population. It produces a profound, prolonged, and debilitating tiredness that is not corrected by rest. When severe, it can produce a chronic and extreme tiredness, so severe that sufferers can become bed-bound or need to use a wheel-chair. It produces muscle pain, brain fog and dizziness, poor memory, disturbed sleep and trouble with digestion.
Unfortunately, there are no known cures for CFS. The usual treatments for fatigue are targeted at symptom relief and include exercise and drugs. As an alternative to these traditional treatments, mindfulness training has been shown to reduce fatigue. Tai Chi is a mindfulness practice that includes movement and balance training. The ability of Tai Chi to improve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) needs investigation.
In today’s Research News article “Altered Effective Connectivity of Resting-State Networks by Tai Chi Chuan in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients: A Multivariate Granger Causality Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9203735/ ) Li and colleagues recruited adult patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and a group of healthy adults who had never practiced Tai Chi and provided them with 2 weekly 1 hour sessions of Tai Chi for 4 weeks. They were measured before and after training for health-related quality of life and had their brains scanned with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
They found that in comparison to the healthy adults before Tai Chi the patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) had significantly lower health-related quality of life and lower connectivity between the Sensorimotor Network (SMN) and the Default Mode Network (DMN). After Tai Chi training the patients with CFS had significant increases in health-related quality of life and improved connectivity between the SMN and DMN.
These findings demonstrate that Tai Chi practice can improve the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) potentially by strengthening connectivity in the brain. This is important as CFS is a mysterious disorder and these findings suggest that a lower level of brain connectivity may underlie the disorder. In addition, they show that Tai Chi practice may at least partially reverse these symptoms.
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Li Y, Wu K, Hu X, Xu T, Li Z, Zhang Y, Li K. Altered Effective Connectivity of Resting-State Networks by Tai Chi Chuan in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients: A Multivariate Granger Causality Study. Front Neurol. 2022 Jun 3;13:858833. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2022.858833. PMID: 35720086; PMCID: PMC9203735.
Numerous evidence has shown that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have changes in resting brain functional connectivity, but there is no study on the brain network effect of Tai Chi Chuan intervention in CFS. To explore the influence of Tai Chi Chuan exercise on the causal relationship between brain functional networks in patients with CFS, 21 patients with CFS and 19 healthy controls were recruited for resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) scanning and 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) scale assessment before and after 1month-long training in Tai Chi Chuan. We extracted the resting brain networks using the independent component analysis (ICA) method, analyzed the changes of FC in these networks, conducted Granger causality analysis (GCA) on it, and analyzed the correlation between the difference causality value and the SF-36 scale. Compared to the healthy control group, the SF-36 scale scores of patients with CFS were lower at baseline. Meanwhile, the causal relationship between sensorimotor network (SMN) and default mode network (DMN) was weakened. The above abnormalities could be improved by Tai Chi Chuan training for 1 month. In addition, the correlation analyses showed that the causal relationship between SMN and DMN was positively correlated with the scores of Role Physical (RP) and Bodily Pain (BP) in CFS patients, and the change of causal relationship between SMN and DMN before and after training was positively correlated with the change of BP score. The findings suggest that Tai Chi Chuan is helpful to improve the quality of life for patients with CFS. The change of Granger causality between SMN and DMN may be a readout parameter of CFS. Tai Chi Chuan may promote the functional plasticity of brain networks in patients with CFS by regulating the information transmission between them.