How do Qigong and Tai Chi aid in severe posture dysfunction?

Welcome to this month’s IRQTC Q&A newsletter and thank you to all who have e-mailed and asked questions this past month.  This month’s question comes from Mary Moisan, a PT practicing in Maine.  Below is a portion of our email exchange regarding one of her patients.

I have a patient with a significant thoracic kyphosis due to osteoporosis. The major concern at this time is her significant fear of falling (she has fallen twice in two months) and an overall lack of fluidity in her movement – she walks with short, choppy steps with almost no rotation.
I have noted as a result of her kyphosis:
1. She cannot obtain/approximate a typical Tai Chi posture, and
2. Her center of gravity is significantly posterior.

We have tried Flowing Motion, but with her COG so far posterior, her weight actually shifts in the “opposite” direction.  As she brings her arms forward, her weight shifts back and as she lowers her arms and brings them past her hips, her weight shifts forward.

*Is this common in people with significant thoracic kyphosis?

*Do I continue with the motions and allow her weight to shift as her body allows?

*I’m not sure how much change I can expect to see in her kyphosis, but are there specific Tai Chi movements that will help minimize her kyphosis?

It is very common for clients with severe kyphosis to shift weight “opposite” because their COG is so far posterior.  When someone has developed such a severe posture dysfunction over time we know that correcting the posture is possible however will require much time, consistency, and attention in doing so.  Even though she can’t assume the Tai Chi posture in standing (you may try supine as well), using visualization cues to move in the direction of the posture can still be very beneficial.  In addition there are some gestures in the Neck & Shoulder program that target thoracic extension; Heart/Lung Opening and Swimming Dragon in particular, but Polishing the Table may also be useful depending on how severely limited she is.

You mentioned she lacks rotation.  Have you tried Cloud Hands?  This can be a very effective way to promote rotation, lateral and anterior posterior weight shift.  Gathering Earth & Sky also target anterior/posterior shift and spine extension when gathering from above.

Mary is in good company with many rehabilitation professionals dealing with similar situations all around the country.  Do you have a particular Tai Chi approach for clients like this?  Let us know how you are using Rehabilitative Qigong & Tai Chi in your practice and together we can build a community that can truly re-humanize health care.

Be well,

Brian Signature


Originally published March 2015.