By MIKE HUGHES, Prime Times
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — While there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the one common thread is that the condition causes pain.
There is no cure for either rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, two of the main types of the disease, but there are treatments.
Medications , dietary supplements and even creams have been proven help alleviate the pain.
One area that is gaining increased attention is the benefit that exercise has on the joints in helping to ease the pain.
In particular, moderate exercise in the form of Tai Chi, has proven to work wonders.
That’s why Donna Melchiori has been either participating in, or teaching, Tai Chi for the last 12 to 13 years.
She’s seen firsthand the benefits the fluid movements of the discipline have on arthritis and has helped others in the area to experience those benefits.
‘‘It has been proven safe and effective in reducing pain and stiffness and improving quality of life for people with arthritis,’’ Melchiori said. ‘‘All the movements are slow and gentle and are done in a standing position, but can be adapted to a seated position.’’
Melchiori incorporates movements from the Sun style of the Tai Chi family, one that is marked by smooth, flowing movements, devoid of the more rigorous leaping and crouching commonly found in the other four major styles of Tai Chi.
She has also geared this particular class toward sufferers of arthritis, utilizing both standing and seated movements. Although she mentioned that even those without arthritis will see benefits.
‘‘It’s considered a moderate exercise, so you’ll still build up a sweat,’’ Melchiori said.
Melchiori teaches classes year round and her next 6-week beginners class starts on Tuesday, March 23 at 1 p.m. at Chris the King Lutheran Church in St. Clairsville.
The cost for the 6-week session which meets once per week is $24.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology revealed that older women who participated in Tai Chai during a 12-week period experienced 35 percent less pain, 29 percent less stiffness and 29 percent more ability to perform daily tasks.
A noticeable difference in abdominal muscles and better balance were found in those participating compared to the control group.
Professor Rhayun Song, a master trainer of Tai Chi for Arthritis, was quoted in a 2005 edition of the Journal of Advanced Nursing as feeling ‘‘as people get older, they are more likely to experience falls and this can lead to some very serious health issues.
‘‘Our study shows that low-intensity exercise such as Tai Chi has great potential for health promotion as it can help older people to avoid falls by developing their balance, muscle strength and confidence.’’
Melchiori noted that she recommends beginners take two doses of the 6-week classes to get a full grasp of the Tai Chi experience.
From there, they can choose to stick with the arthritis course, or branch out to different and more involved disciplines and movements.
‘‘For some of the beginners, it takes a bit to learn all the movements ... where to put their hands, their feet,’’ she said.
‘‘It takes about 12 weeks to really see the benefit and it also takes that long just to get proficient in the movements.’’
There are other Tai Chi instructors in the Ohio Valley that not only teach the arthritis program, but more advanced styles.
Nancy Shutler from Moundsville, like Melchiori, teaches the arthritis program at the Wheeling Senior Center as well as in Moundsville.
Steve Perdok holds classes at the Howard Long Wellness Center and teaches more advanced forms, including those that involve weaponry. After all, at its base, Tai Chi is a martial art.
It was actually Shutler who helped blossom Melchiori’s interest in Tai Chi and who gave her that first opportunity to instruct.
‘‘Nancy was leading a class and wasn’t able to continue,’’ Melchiori said. ‘‘I had been helping a bit and she asked me to try and teach the class and I did. The students were patient with me and I learned how to instruct and continued to learn all the forms. It’s something you learn the rest of your life. It gets more and more in-depth as your pursue it.’’
Those interested in participating or any with further questions can contact Melchiori at (740) 757-2722.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
DONNA?MELCHIORI, left leads her Tai Chai for Arthritis class Monday at Chris the King Lutheran Church. Pictured with Melchiori are students Donna Comas, center, and Shirley Minozzi.