MS and Tai Chi Chuan
My focus on this blog will be my personal experiences dealing with MS and the impact of daily practices of Tai Chi Chaun on my physical and mental capacities. I’ve always said to people that Tai Chi Chuan is “my medicine”. I have PPMS (Primary Progressive MS) which means I probably won’t have any relapses (which is good) but my progression of the disease will continue downhill (which is not good).
I take Baclofen to help with spasticity and Ampyra® to help me with my walking. My daily practice of Tai Chi helps with not only with my balance and rooting but it’s meditative qualities keep me stay relaxed and energized throughout each day.
For much of my adult life I have been physically active: I’ve played tennis and squash, always swimming, biked on long tours, and even did a handful of road races (I hated running), some triathlons and biathlons and, of course, was into the martial arts. I took up Kung Fu in my undergraduate years and got pretty good at it and continued on after graduating and moving to a small town in West Virginia for my first teaching job. I stayed there for two years and moved back to New York and tried to find a comparable Kung Fu style and school but gave up. I continued the other physical activities but they were not as fulfilling as taking Kung Fu. It wasn’t until after I had shoulder surgery in 2001 that I took a Tai Chi Chuan class with Grand Master J. Teasley, got hooked, and never looked back.
During the time after 2002 the symptoms started: weakness in the legs, tripping, fatigue, and numbness in my left leg and arm . I had countless MRI’s of the spine and hips, visited the orthopedists and physical therapists regularly and even had three epidural procedures but no one knew what was wrong with me. I knew something wasn’t right when my legs felt like lead weights and could barely do a kick higher than knee height. It wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that a neurologist ordered an MRI of my brain with contrast. I thought “that was weird and scary-my brain?? Is it a tumor?” Nonetheless, he was able to diagnose that I had MS and I was relieved-finally an answer!
I continued practicing Tai Chi in spite of the diagnosis. Little did I know that this would be the best thing for me. There are no platform drugs for Primary Progressive MS-it is a slow, decline in the condition. Sure, my walking has gotten progressively worse over the years with foot drop but that hasn’t stopped me. I took a bad fall in 2008, which required 25 stitches in my bottom lip and chin, not knowing at the time that MS caused the fall.
Today, I continue my Tai Chi, knowing it will keep me happy and mentally centered. I am happy to share what I have learned with others and want to especially help others with MS and those with physical disabilities.