The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tai Chi better for Fibromyalgia than drugs

Imagine that.

What’s remarkable, actually, is how often some form of exercise is better for a variety of conditions than pharmaceuticals.  From depression to osteoperosis to preventing the effects of Alzheimer, getting active generally works as well or better than drugs.

In terms of societal health, doing everything we can so that people eat healthily and get exercise would probably do more than anything else.

Instead we subsidize corn syrup and build suburbs without sidewalks.


Oh for God’s Sake: US combat troops have NOT left Iraq


Idiots get around to noticing that Dems may have problems in mid terms


  1. anon2525

    In terms of societal health, doing everything we can so that people eat healthily and get exercise would probably do more than anything else.

    I would add to your list 1) get enough sleep and 2) reduce your stress (good luck with both of these).

    …and build suburbs without sidewalks.

    Which, among other things, puts people out into traffic driving on long commutes, that is, increases stress. Having people telecommute a few days a week would quickly pay for itself in reduced medical bills and fuel costs.

  2. beowulf

    To follow up on anon2525 points, my kid sister just finished her medical residency and she was telling me recently that the best thing for fibromyaglia sufferers is to give them a psych consult. No, its not “all in their head”, rather it appears that the pain is caused by muscle tension caused by anxiety*. The best way to treat the physical symptoms is to treat the underlying mental stress (though in some cases, the pain could be caused by organic physical reasons such as potassium deficiencies ).

    It stands to reason that anything that relieves anxiety, such as exercise or meditation (and I guess Tai Chi is a little of both) would be helpful. As Edward Shorter has documented, a lot of psychiatric drugs are snake oil anyway.

    *I’d note that the Cornell Medical Index (a civilian version of the questionnaire WWII draftees filled out prior to their physical) also viewed aches and pains in different part of the body as symptoms of a mental issue.

    “If the”Yeses” are chiefly in one or two sections, the
    patient’s medical problem probably is localized. If
    scattered throughout the four pages of the CMI
    the medical problem is likely to be diffused, usually
    involving an emotional disturbance.”

  3. someofparts

    I’ve been using Google Earth street view to shop for places out of the country that might be good retirement destinations.

    I suppose it’s corny to praise Paris but I can’t help but think of it when you talk about the value of being physically active. I hadn’t even imagined it was possible for a city to be so welcoming to walkers, so well-designed to make it possible to live well without a car. I can testify to the better health I experienced personally when I used public transit instead of a car. I’m guessing living in a walkable city like Paris would be a health boost across the board as you describe.

  4. alyosha

    A few thoughts:

    This is a huge subject, about how our entire medical system is geared not toward cheap, practical means of keeping/restoring health, but toward medical industry profits. Along with free/cheap things like Tai Chi, or walking, also include the entire realm of vitamins/supplements that cannot be patented, and so are not promoted, favoring instead expensive, symptom-masking pharmaceuticals. I didn’t look, but I would bet that the Tai Chi/fibromyalgia study wasn’t sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, as much “research” currently is.

    I saw one of those surveys yesterday that ranked cities around the US in terms of stress. Las Vegas topped the list, with my town, Los Angeles not far behind. LA’s reason: people are generally unhealthy here. With the entire place designed for cars instead of walking (this is fortunately starting to change), despite generally great weather, despite a well-above-average health consciousness here, it is not easy to be be healthy here.

    The wave of the future is energy medicine – things like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Quantum Touch, pranayama.

  5. dawn

    Not surprised at all – I’ve had a couple of dance teachers with fibromyalgia. They have both shared that the only time they don’t hurt is when they dance.

  6. @someofparts — oh yeah, Paris is a wonderful walking city. Except for the fact that my girlfriend lived 6km away from my apartment when I lived there, I had no reason in my day to day life to be more than 2km from my apartment; 2km to school, 1.5 km to work, 400 meters to 30 different great bars, restaurants and brasseries, 100 meters to a laundromat, 3 grocery stores within 4 blocks, and an open air food market next to my school. I dropped 25 pounds in six months because I routinely walked ten to fifteen kilometers per day because walking made way more sense than taking a cab or the excellent subway system.

    Chunks of the Rust Belt, esp. Pittsburgh are still good walking cities and can probably recreate themselves as walking retirement communities where people in reasonably decent health can get by without a car.

  7. someofparts

    I found a website that rates neighborhoods in U.S. cities by walkability. Lots of cities seem to have several walkable areas. It’s just that, except for NYC, those neighborhoods are just small areas in the cities where they are located and overall, the cities are still designed so that a person ultimately needs a car to live there well.

  8. jcapan

    My native DC, and Portland (OR) spring to mind. Transit is a huge factor, obviously. I’m not sure if a car is necessary to live “well” (ymmv), but money usually is, as there aren’t many boxstores/chain supermarkets etc. catering to the middle class. The NW is trending in that direction, though they’re still pretty elite-oriented enclaves (in this woeful teacher’s opinion). My wife and I could afford a house in South Florida, where not having a car was impossible, but in Portland we’d have been lucky to shoe-horn our way into a rundown condo. If your commitment isn’t elided by the thought of renting, take the plunge: sell the car/buy a bike–all else follows.

    I can walk/train/subway or bus absolutely anywhere in my city of 1.5 million (or the megalop’s 22 mil), but let me tell you folks, at times I miss my freakin’ car. Carry bags of groceries uphill with a baby on your back (in the humid mid-90s), and you might reassess.

  9. Ian Welsh

    As an aside, corn syrup is 1/4th as sweet as sugar, and has twice the insulin response. So yes, soft drinks with sugar are healthier, because they have 1/4 the sweetener and 1/8th the insulin response.

    Not that even soft drinks with sugar are a good idea, but I agree with a friend of mine that if you’re going to partake, drink only the ones that do have sugar.

  10. I’m not too surprised by the general thought that exercise is very effective at making us feel better. It’s only been in the last couple of centuries that most of us did not make our living hunting, planting, or foraging our food. Our physiologies evolved to expect more exercise than most of us get now.

  11. jcapan

    Cujo, you ever read Paul Shepard, the ecologist? Wiki description: “Shepard created a developmental model for understanding the role of sustained contact with nature in healthy human psychological development, positing that humans, having spent 99% of their social history in hunting and gathering environments, are therefore evolutionarily dependent on nature for proper emotional and psychological growth and development. Drawing from ideas of neoteny, Shepard postulated that many humans in post-agricultural society are often not fully mature, but are trapped in infantilism or an adolescent state.”

  12. anon2525

    …at times I miss my freakin’ car. Carry bags of groceries uphill with a baby on your back (in the humid mid-90s), and you might reassess.

    You might want to research getting a bicycle with an electric assist motor, along with a child/grocery carrying trailer. Of course, street/automobile traffic might make that unsafe for your child and you. In that case, I would still consider some sort of walker that could carry your baby and groceries. Pushing/pulling something that rolls is easier than carrying.

  13. jcapan


    Of course, we have a stroller. Overall, I love our situation, but there’s whinging at this end too. Difference being that my family’s carbon footprint is dramatically lower than the average American’s.

    All I’m saying is there are times (Japan’s endless rainy season, bitter fucking cold winter mornings) when a car ride to Publix or Safeway sounds pretty sweet. What was interesting as a first-time parent, and someone who had my local transit infrastructure down pat, was how much I had to relearn the grid. Where are the elevators on my train platforms. What’s the best route to avoid swarms of yoda-shaped grannies out for their morning shop…

  14. scruff

    Another thing that’s better then drugs for fibromyalgia is cutting out gluten. I’ve pointed this out to my coworker who has fibromyalgia, but she prefers to take drugs rather than question her “totally normal and totally healthy” food choices. Hm…

  15. Ian writes:

    Instead we subsidize corn syrup and build suburbs without sidewalks.

    So what’s your point?

  16. marku

    Ian: do you have a source for ” corn syrup is 1/4th as sweet as sugar, and has twice the insulin response”?

    AFAIK, plain sugar is 50/50 sucrose/fructose, while HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is 55% fructose. Not nearly enough difference to explain what you describe. The main cause of the HFCS problem is two-fold, one is the anti-fat hysteria which lead to “low fat” foods that are loaded with HFCS in exchange, and the low price of HFCS (subsidized, as you point out) that leads to all processed foods being loaded up with it.

    Here is Dr Robert Lustig, (who studies childhood obesity) who argues that due to the way that fructose is metabolized (through the same metabolic pathway in the liver as alcohol) that Coke is just “Beer without the buzz”. Long but worth a watch.

  17. Ian Welsh

    Marku: friend of mine who was in the business. Could be I’m wrong, I’ll see what I can find.

  18. Ian Welsh

    Not directly speaking to the sweetness/insulin response, but supporting that corn syrup is bad news:

    A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

    In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

    “Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

    The rest is just as devastating.

    Don’t partake of non-sugar pop.

    Also this:

    Doesn’t support the sweetness (in fact, says it’s the reverse), but does show that glucose is worse than table sugar, and fructose is far far worse, and has an effect on both weigh and the prevalence of diabetes.

  19. marku

    No question HFCS is badddddd subsidized shit. But now you’ll see promos for sweeteners like agave nectar, which is pure fructose. If Lustig is at all correct, that will be even worse for you than HFCS.

    But, hey, it can’t be bad for you—-It’s _natural_.

    Just like cyanide and arsenic.

  20. anon2525

    Don’t forget — there’s honey, made by bees. Well, at least for a few more years, until all of the bees die.

  21. cathyx

    Agave nectar has a very low glycemic index number. Honey slightly higher but much lower than fructose. Stevia should be the sweetener of choice. Almost zero.

  22. Lex

    I don’t know where you live anon, but if you need some hope that the bees will survive stop by and see me because i know a place.

    In the couple of weeks of tree farm work a few weeks back i was a little worried. I didn’t see more than one or two bees out there and in July it’s usually heavy with them. Then i went out a few days ago. I’ve never seen so many bees. Swarms of them, all types. It sounded like a truck passing by on the highway all the time. There were actually a few places that i decided i wouldn’t walk through because of the bees…and i’m not afraid of them, never been stung by one, etc.

  23. anon2525

    …and build suburbs without sidewalks.

    More on commuting stress in an opinion today: Suburban Sprawl and the Decline of Social Capital

    The Gallup polling organization reports that the “well being” of metropolitan Americans is apparently “lower among workers with long commutes.” The study, released this month, finds that “lengthy commuters are more likely to experience a range of physical and emotional conditions,” including “severe health problems,” such as neck or back pain (especially for those commuting more than 20 minutes) and higher cholesterol and larger “body mass index(es),” due, no doubt, to over-consumption of fattening fast foods.

    Gallup warns that significant societal changes are needed in order to combat the harmful effects of America’s sprawling social system. “The results imply that many employers may need to reevaluate their options for helping workers manage those effects, particularly in light of the costs associated with low wellbeing. Those who are hesitant to allow telecommuting, for example, may need to consider balancing the physical and emotional toll of long commutes against the social benefits of having employees together in the workplace. Employers should also recognize that it’s not just the time lost in commuting that may have adverse effects. Particularly in tough economic times, commuting expenses – whether they go to gas and parking or mass transit fees – may contribute to elevated worry levels.

  24. Lex

    Honestly, i cannot imagine having to drive any distance to and from work. When we moved this spring i was a little perturbed that my seven mile commute would become an 8 mile commute…and this was even with the consideration that i could still use Lakeshore Ave for the added mile (meaning a gentle 25mph with no stopsigns along Lake Superior for nearly half the drive).

    Yeah i know i should bike in the summer, but i don’t work in no stinkin office. I average 7+ miles of walking in a work day (along with other physical activity). Sometimes it’s nice to ride the bike to work, but more often than not Lake Superior is a fickle you know what and makes you peddle into a stiff head wind both ways.

  25. so i care for my dad here in my home; he’s got diabetes mostly due to bad food choices over the course of his life, eating at McDonald’s 5 times a week, drinking beer a lot, etc. i manage his budget, as he’s partially blind and has dementia. this month, he fucked up when i wasn’t looking, and blew thru his allotment before the month was over. so: no McDonald’s (i can’t stop him from going or ordering out) and no beer. unsurprisingly, his blood sugar levels are way, way down, thanks to my cooking, which is heavily based on my garden grown organic food and that which i cheaply buy for him at farmer’s markets, etc. in just the short space of less than one month, his sugar went from requiring 8 units of insulin twice a day, to four, not even twice a day all the time.

    just sayin. if your food comes in a plastic bag or box, and is frozen, breaded, etc., you really can change that. and afford to do it. yes, it’s hard in some areas to eat organic, properly fresh and healthy foods, but it’s not impossible. if you have to hand over your food checkbook to a “food nazi” like me, give it a try for 30 days. i promise you’ll see results.

    and yes, “energy” based preventative health care works, is cheaper, better, etc. that i know from my own example as well as that of others.

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