View Full Version : Tourettes SYndrome and Tai Chi

03-30-2005, 02:52 PM
I have read some about tai chi helping with some neurological problems, do you think it coulc help my son age 11 that has a severe case of Tourettes Syndrome, ADHD, and obsessive compulsive disorder????

03-30-2005, 03:59 PM
Absolutely! BUT, the effect may not be directly on the symptoms of the Tourette's Sydrome. The relaxation and control of anxiety can reduce the impulsivity of the ADHD; decrease the anxiety of the OCD; and PERHAPS decrease the tics in Tourette's. Certainly, simple tics respond to anxiety and psychosocial factors, and I think that the vocal tics and motor tics of Tourette's are somewhat responsive to psychosocial factors. At a conference on Tourette's a friend gave, the audience was quiet and attentive until she brought up Haloperidol; while the presenter was very positive about this medication, a member of the audience wasn't, and immediately began producing a vocal tic of slang for female dogs. When she invited this young man to come up and speak of his experience, the tics dried up!

Incidently, we know of no name for this cluster of symptoms, but my colleagues and I have seen so many children (especially adolescent girls) with ADHD, OCD and Tourette's together that there may be some as-yet unidentified connection between them.

Skill in Tai Chi can give a child with multiple disadvantages something to take pride in. The value of this cannot be overstated, as ADHD, OCD, and Tourette's each by itself can be detrimental to a child's self esteem.


Check this URL as a gateway to reliable Tourette's info. -Bill

03-31-2005, 11:03 AM
Good luck with your son and Tai Chi.

One of my friends children have learning difficulties and love to enjoy joining me in my practice when they stay. I try to keep it informal and let them set the pace. Everyone says they have benefited from it, so something is working!

03-31-2005, 11:14 PM
You present an interesting problem and question.
Tai Chi can help people with neurological problems, and I suspect that children will benefit the most. The only down side is that it is usualy harder for them to learn and you have to find a way to keep their attention and prevent them from being frustrated. You may need to adapt the form teaching to small segments and intersperse some rewards and distractio ns. This will also give you an opportunity to do something together with your son that is fun and rewarding.

04-01-2005, 06:18 AM
As a person with Tourette's myself, allow me to add a point or two to this excellent discussion. First, every ticquer is different in regrard to what makes the tics get worse or better. For me, for example, muscle cramps, certain cold medicines, and being around others with a lot of visible tics all tend to make mine blossom for a while. Long ago I had the cigarette habit, and the nicotine suppressed the tics much of the time.
Relatively few of us with TS need medication for it constantly. Haloperidol, risperidone and the other more potent antipsychotic-type meds that do help tics also have their own array of problematic side-effects including their own kind of unnatural involuntary movements, stiffness and a general slowing of mental function. So everything is a trade, and some of these med effects could impact TCC. If the tics get bad enough I will take medication. I try to manage the symptoms selectively as they wax and wane, and at times they are present but cause me little trouble or embarrassment so I don't necessarily always treat.
BTW, tics and TS, like OCD, can be part of "PANDAS"--pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus--presumably because the antibodies we develop to the group-B beta-hemolytic strep bacterium also attack our own brain tissues at certain locations that "look like" the germ in question. A blood test can determine if the antibody titer to strep is high enough to consider this etiology.
I would endorse TCC for anyone of any age with TS, as it promotes concentration, relaxation, coordination, but I also suspect that when we understand qi better we will see it to be related to the regulation of movements in an overall sense. Subjectively, I feel my TS less troublesome since I started practicing TCC a couple of years ago...may be coincidental but I don't think so.

Richard Livingston, MD

04-01-2005, 07:41 AM
I doubt a better answer is possible than what you just got from Dr. Livingston.

Dr L.- We DID see PANDAS a couple of times at Hershey (Penn State) Medical Center in the Inpatient Child Psych Unit. I don't think we looked for it in those patients with that cluster I just mentioned; PANDAS was only just getting known when I was there. The physicians I was working with were Val (Valentins) Krecko from Child Psychiatry and Todd Barron from Peds Neuro. -Bill

04-01-2005, 03:11 PM
The September 2002 issue of 'Martial Arts Professional' included an article "The Prescription is Martial Arts" that summarized a presentation by Dr. Ruth Peters at the NAPMA (National Association of Professional Martial Artists) World Conference. Dr. Peters recommends martial arts training for children with ADD and ADHD. According to the article, she feels that it helps about 50% of the time, and that the personalities of the child and the instructor are key to success. Dr. Peters also explains that the positive reinforcement, consistency, and emphasis on focus that are integral to martial arts (hence also Tai Chi practice) would be beneficial to kids with ADD/ADHD. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, I have not seen any concrete studies on this. Also, I am not sure that a 50% success rate is convincing.

I would recommend consulting with the specializing physician on the suitability of tai chi for your child. I did have an adult with Tourette's syndrome in my class, and he saw many benefits, but each case will be unique. Tai Chi is a gentle art, and it is hard to see any negative result, but one must be sure not to put a child in a situation that might be frustrating. That decision would be made by parent, child, and physician.

04-01-2005, 08:09 PM
I am not a psychiatrist but I did have a few children and adults with PANDAS. The venue where I taught was the Tannenwald Klinik near Wiesbaden, Germany, specialising on psychiatric and psychosomatic illnesses.

Clinical trials and observation studies are important to distinguish fact from nonsense, but.........a patient or Tai Chi student is by no means to be treated exactly like a subject in a clinical trial. A trial applies scientific methods to examine a certain intervention within a certain limit of time, regardless of influencing factors and end result.

Just a few tips from my observation apart from consulting specialising physicians and instructors. Tai Chi is definitely relaxing where I feel that it may help reducing tics, anxiety and other symptoms of OCD.

Richard made a point about qi. Love and personal warmth is a very important factor to enhance qi.YOur child is not a case, it is the child, focus should be on the personality of the child and not whether Tai Chi will reduce tics or not. Love your child unconditionally, make him/her feel loved and appreciated for what he/she is and not for what he/she does or how well he/she does Tai Chi.

Once your doctor has given approval for Tai Chi, go and join the class and home practice. Give your child freedom in movements, let him express his feelings. YOur child might have some difficulties retaining attention and do everything wrong.........Well, it doesn't matter. Be playful, reassurance and encouragement, praise is more important than keeping attention to do the movements right.

Last but not least, don't ever put pressure on the child. Dont try to reduce or even heal the tics. Just enjoy Tai Chi practice along with your child, provided that the physician has given consent.

04-01-2005, 08:16 PM
As Richard Livingston already pointed out, tics can be different and it is very likely that your child does not suffer PANDAS.

Richard also made an interesting point about worsening of tics in a group with tics or exposure to cold objects. In the class I taught, tics seemed to infectious. We ended by teaching the kids in a one-on-one session with regular home practice with the whole family. When possible try to motivate children with no tics. These other children also suffer some sort of illness and feel great that they can have a share in helping another child

Again, always involve your psychiatrist in your actions. Try to find a psychiatrist who is open-minded to non-drug interventions. They are rare, but not impossible to find

Dahlis Roy
04-02-2005, 01:28 PM
Great posts everyone!

I have ADHD and was not even aware of it until age 40. I agree with what Bill T. said that "relaxation and concentration can reduce the impulsivity of ADHD." Tai Chi seems to help in my case.

I have only been practicing Tai Chi for 9 years and teaching for 7, but Tai Chi's impact on stabilizing my emotional life and physical health is immense.

Lately, I have found that my left brain is opening where before I had mostly all right brain function. I painted and wrote in random, disjointed ways, but now new dimensions of balanced creativity bring my life greater joy. I like this new-found balance!
I take no ADHD medications, and the Tai Chi relaxation/exercise combination for me is energy medicine. Teaching brings friends together in gentle sharing ways giving me confidence with people.
Soon I turn 60! I am so happy to find Tai Chi later in life.

Good luck with your son! It is good to start early.


Dr. Paul Lam
04-05-2005, 06:10 PM
thanks for the great replies.

04-22-2005, 06:32 PM
I am interested in hearing from anyone with TS, OCD or ADHD who has practiced TCC--as to whether and how it helps each individual.

Richard Livingston,MD