Falling Down, Then Getting Back Up

Falling1

People fall.

Sometimes people fall softly, and sometimes they fall hard. Falling down is a part of life, and when we fall, we’ve learned that you just have to get yourself back up, brush off the dirt, and keep movin’ forward.

You probably think I’m being metaphorical, but for once I’m not (mind you, if you’re like me, you probably metaphorically fall more often than literally – yuk yuk).

Yes, people fall down all the time, and if you’ve had a stroke, falling down is an even bigger issue. In fact average stroke survivors experience seven times as many falls as healthy adults do, and many of those falls can end them up in the hospital.

Generally, stroke rehabilitation focuses on improving balance, strength and range of motion. While this is certainly a sensible approach, research shows that standard workout and rehabilitation programs only reduce the average number of falls by half. Hmm, that’s still an awful lot of falling down.

So what else can stroke survivors do to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground? Well, there’s a ton of research out there indicating that practicing Taiji Quan regularly is doing a pretty good job of just that!

Whether you’ve read it as TaiJi Quan or TaiChi Chuan, everybody knows what it is by now, and most people have probably seen it in motion (if not, here’s a good clip). It emphasizes fluid, dynamic and circular movements, demands concentration and attention to detail, and it’s not nearly as easy as it looks. Most importantly though, it packs a big bag full of benefits if you keep it up.

Above and beyond increased strength, balance and range of motion, long term benefits of practicing TaiJi can include better posture, alleviation of depression and anxiety, improved cardiovascular health, better quality of life, increased immune function, reduction of high blood pressure, reduced spasticity, greater concentration, and better exercise tolerance. It’s also shown to be a beneficial therapeutic adjunct in brain injury, parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis rehabilitation programs.

The question most people have is, what makes TaiJi different? It’s a good question that often goes without a very satisfactory answer. In terms of rehabilitation, my experience is that TaiJi provides a self-directed, systematic way to master functional movement awareness. Translation: It teaches you how to understand and control your body really really well.

That’s something our clients, or anyone for that matter, could certainly benefit from. Especially if you fall a lot.

If you don’t already know, we’re in the process of expanding the clinic (more on that in later entries). One of the things we’re very excited about starting up in our new space are weekly movement classes! These classes won’t just be about TaiJi, they’ll also incorporate ideas from other traditional exercises like yoga, QiGong, meditation and boxing. It will be an opportunity for anyone experiencing movement challenges due to a neurological impairment to relearn how to use their body.

I’m working on a gimmicky name for this new class, but for now it’s just going to be called ‘Movement Therapy’ (cut me some slack, it was late when I wrote this and I’m not feeling very imaginative at the moment). Hopefully in a few months we’ll be able to post videos of these classes online.

So next time you fall, remember to just get back up, brush off, and keep on moving forward. As long as you’re persistent and keep learning, sooner or later those literal falls will be a thing of the past… and hopefully the metaphorical ones too.

– Jesse

Here are a couple links with research about TaiJi and Stroke rehabilitation.
http://newsroom.heart.org/news/tai-chi-exercise-may-reduce-falls-in-adult-stroke-survivors
http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=216798

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