Monday, March 18, 2019

Tai Chi Assessment

Presenting problem

Right Shoulder Pain and Discomfort        


To see how tai chi moves affect the shoulder and to discover ways to correct any distortion in the movement and to facilitate healing the shoulder.

Chris (not his real name) is a tai chi student in his seventies. He has complained of recurring shoulder pain and discomfort for the past 5 years. He has been practicing tai chi for about 2 years. 

Assessment 1

Completed a general body scan to observe what the body presented from a natural standing position.

Assessment 2:

Completed a secondary body scan from a tai chi position (the push position with one leg forward and with both hands forward in a push position, the last move of grasp bird’s tail).

This stance puts Chris in a tai chi posture which allows us to observe his body in a more active position. We did a body scan from this position.  


Very tight mid to upper back presenting with a dense, tight and excessive kyphotic curve in the mid to upper back.

Movement Assessment

We requested Chris to perform the tai chi moves from the beginning to the end of grasp’s bird’s tail. Here we noticed that Chris accentuates the excessive upper back curve, especially during the final extension of the move and pushing out with his hands.
Chris reveals that his upper body sometimes feels disconnected from the lower body during the tai chi practice. Many times after a practice, his lower back would feel worked out but with an uncomfortable soreness afterwards.                                                  

A significant observation was that Chris would excessively push out with his arms and hands during the tai chi move and then the upper back would compress into an excessive curve and his shoulders would feel tight and uncomfortable.

We recognized a relationship with his shoulder and upper back. Pushing and stretching out actually tighten his back and shoulder and this created more discomfort. 


  1. For Chris to practice the movement softly and gently without any excessive pushing forward.
  2. To bring Chris’ movement to a more upright position. To take the strain and discomfort out of the shoulder.  

As students advance in the tai chi training, there is the need to integrate the hip and lower back with the correct transitional tai chi movement to facilitate the overall connection with the spine, upper back and shoulder. We will work slowly with Chris to improve this connection as we work with the rotational move during his transitional tai chi movement. 

What is important to note here is that the simple tai chi moves were creating stress to his shoulder due to the physical constraints of his body.  Gentle instruction to perform the tai chi moves with ease and relaxation helped to reduce the overall stress and discomfort of his back and the presenting shoulder problem. 


With these gentle corrections, the student alleviated the overall shoulder strain and reduced the excessive stress and curvature off his upper back. Chris was able to deepen his personal awareness of his tai chi movements.