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Aug. 21 2010 12:00 AM

Tai chi, an ancient Chinese practice of exercise and meditation, may relieve symptoms of a painful chronic condition called fibromyalgia, a small new study shows.

Tai chi involves gentle, flowing movements in which students shift their weight and breathe deeply, cycling through a series of stances with poetic names, such as "white crane spreads its wings." The philosophy of tai chi involves moving a person's vital energy, or qi ("chee"), through the body.

In the study, doctors randomly assigned 66 fibromyalgia patients to take either a 12-week tai chi class or attend a "wellness education" class that included stretching exercises, according to a study in today'sNew England Journal of Medicine. Fibromyalgia patients experience pain, stiffness, fatigue and other problems.

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