Struggling with pain, Georgia mom finds relief in tai chi

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For years, just moving hurt Carrie Krebs

"I felt like I had the flu, almost all the time," Krebs says.

The 35-year old Carrollton, Georgia, stay-at-home mom of 6 has fibromyalgia, a disorder that can cause widespread pain, fatigue, foggy thinking, and, in her Krebs' case, chronic headaches.

"I had been doing less and less, and gaining more and more [weight]," Krebs says. "You move and it hurts, so you don't move."

But in November of 2017, Carrie discovered a life-changer: tai chi.

A Chinese practice thousands of years old, it involves a series of slow, focused, gentle movements and stretches.

A recent study published in the March edition of the British Medical Journal found tai chi works better than aerobic exercise in helping fibromyalgia patient cope with their symptoms. Carrie Krebs joined a free class offered by Tanner Health System's "Get Healthy, Live Well" program, taught by Community Outreach Coordinator Phyllis Head. It's called "Tai Chi for Health."

Head cautions this not your traditional tai chi.

"It's been modified a bit, so the movements are not as extreme, and it's specifically geared for people that have health issues," Head explains.

Advocates say tai chi is affordable, easy to learn and accessible to people of all fitness levels and abilities. In this class, Head says, they move slowly, keeping in mind class members have chronic illnesses.

"You make it harder by stepping a little deeper into the moves or stepping out a little farther," Head explains.

In the first class, Krebs realized she had some balance issues.

"She [Head] was, like, 'Be aware of where you put your weight, how you're moving," she remembers. "That's where the balance came in. I realized I did not have the balance I thought I did and I need to pay more attention to how I was moving."

Krebs began to practice tai chi every day at home, something she's continued since the class ended in December. She's found the more she moves, the better she feels. There's evidence that tai chi can boost mood and improve sleep. Head says she likes it because it can help relieve stress.

"Most people with chronic conditions deal with a lot of stress," she says.

Carrie Krebs has dropped 15 pounds since November. Her health, she says, is still a work in progress.

But, Krebs believes, she's finally making peace with her pain.

"It gives you a very relaxed feeling," she says.