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Tai Chi for Insomnia, Acupuncture for chronic pain

Jean Weiss
Prevention Magazine

Tai chi for insomnia
Are you a chronic tosser and turner? Can't sleep beyond the first chirps and tweets of the morning chorus? Try tai chi. The slow, meditative exercise regimen, originally developed as a martial art in China more than 2,500 years ago and practiced widely across Asia today, improves sleep quality in adults with moderate insomnia, CAM researchers say. The benefits, linked to tai chi's well-established ability to reduce stress, kicked in after participants practiced the routine for 16 weeks. You will need regular instruction at first, so look for classes at your Y or gym.

Hidden benefit: Tai chi helps improve balance and reduce risk of falling.


Acupuncture for chronic pain
A rash of new research affirms this ancient therapy as a powerful head-to-toe pain reliever for a wide range of conditions. After as few as six sessions, people who suffered from regular tension headaches saw their symptoms disappear. Another new study found that sufferers of chronic lower-back pain who received acupuncture fared better than those receiving conventional care. Acupuncture also relieves pain and improves mobility in people with osteoarthritis of the knee — encouraging news, because the condition is considered irreversible. Just how does acupuncture work? According to precepts of Chinese medicine, placing needles at specific points along the body's meridians, or energy channels, balances energy flow. Western scientists have a more prosaic explanation: The needles stimulate the body to release its own natural opioids, quelling pain. As their discomfort eases, sufferers of arthritis and lower-back pain can then perform exercises that enable them to regain strength, flexibility, and mobility.

Hidden benefit: You gain deeper body knowledge. Your acupuncturist will take a holistic approach to your condition, so although you may go in to treat pain in one part of your body, you may come out with a much broader understanding of how other parts contribute to that discomfort as well.