As a passionate physiotherapist, Hillary Simon developed a special interest in treating ongoing and persistent pain.
Research has shown that 1 in 5 Australians suffer with chronic pain, and Ms Simon was determined to help as many people as possible.
But to achieve the long-term results she desired for her patients, it would take more than the physiotherapy sessions she was currently offering.
“Keeping active is one of the main principles of managing pain,” says Ms Simon, who began actively seeking ways for her patients to maintain regular activity, without causing further pain or injury.
During her journey to find an appropriate form of movement to teach her chronic pain patients, Ms Simon attended her first workshop with Dr Paul Lam 4 years ago, to study the ancient art of Tai Chi.
“Tai Chi is an effective exercise based on the laws of nature,” says Ms Simon.
“It originates in China and is a safe form of exercise for the health of mind and body. It can be performed by people of all ages and ability.
Dr Paul Lam’s program, Tai Chi for Health, is based on extensive research and designed to assist with numerous, specific health issues.
“I was impressed with the scientifically proven benefits of practicing Tai Chi,” says Ms Simon.
“Tai Chi improves both physical (cardiovascular, muscle strength and flexibility) as well as mental (stress relief, relaxation) strength.
“It’s based on the laws of nature where everything is in harmony. It teaches the integration of mind and body.”
Studies suggest that Tai Chi can help with chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
It can also improve balance, prevent falls and reduce stress.
Ms Simon says physiotherapists actively encourage patients to exercise in a safe and effective manner, particularly when treating patients with chronic pain – and Tai Chi perfectly fits the bill.
“The benefits of Tai Chi as developed by the Ancient Chinese are now being proven through modern day medical studies.
“As physiotherapists we aim to encourage people to keep active, so as far as I am concerned, Tai Chi is a great option for the patients I treat.”
Ms Simon has been teaching Tai Chi for Health programs for the past 3 years, attending annual workshops, to not only learn new Tai Chi for Health sets each year, but increase her own depth of understanding of Tai Chi principals.
“I have learnt that participants of all ages and physical abilities are on their own journey with their own personal goals.
“The physical and mental benefits are experienced by all that I have had contact with, at their own personal level.
“In my experience, the more effort and practice that is put in, the greater the benefits.”
In helping her patients, Ms Simon first explains some of the principals and benefits of Tai Chi in a one on one setting during their physiotherapy consultation.
“I encourage them to attend classes and begin their own Tai Chi journey.”
Following physiotherapy management of musculoskeletal conditions, education about exercise, Tai Chi can be commenced.
But it’s not just her patients that enjoy the benefits of the Tai Chi experience.
“On a personal level, I have benefitted from improved posture and balance, as well as learning the mind /body connection – concept of mental quietness or relaxation.
“The longer I practice my Tai Chi, the more I understand the benefit of all the principals of Tai Chi.
“It is much more than a form of exercise. It is a way of living life.”
To learn more about Tai Chi for physiotherapists, click here.