Treatments for fibromyalgia include medications, exercise programs, psychological interventions, and alternative approaches. However, each of these strategies have their own limitations. Now, a team of researchers suggests that Qigong, a Chinese meditative practice, may be an effective adjunct for easing fibromyalgia pain.
Qigong is closely related to tai chi, another form of Chinese meditative practice, but differs because it focuses more on meditative, healing movements rather than martial arts movements. Previous research has already pointed to the efficacy of tai chi for fibromyalgia and this study suggests qigong can offer similar benefits.
A team of Canadian researchers recently conducted a study with 100 fibromyalgia patients. Half underwent treatment with Qigong, while the other half served as a wait-list group, serving as controls for 6 months before undergoing Qigong treatment.
The type of Qigong used for the study, known as Chaoyi Fanhuan Qigong, was initially taught to the patients in a 3-day workshop. It includes specific exercises and movements aimed at emphasizing relaxation, release, and the distribution of energy, or “qi,” throughout the body. Following this initial session, participants returned for one-hour practice sessions once per week for two months. They were also asked to perform the movements at home for up to one hour each day for 6 months.
The treatment was found to improve sleep quality, physical and mental well-being, and pain levels. These benefits were sustained throughout the 6-month follow-up treatment. On the 100-point Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, which aims to quantify the effects of the condition, there was a decrease of 18.45 points, compared with a decrease of 0.93 points in the control group.
The researchers concluded that Qigong may have long-term benefits, and may be “a useful adjunct in the management of fibromyalgia.”
Lynch M, Sawynok J, Hiew C, Marcon D. A randomized controlled trial of qigong for fibromyalgia. Arthritis Research and Therapy 2012; 14:R178: doi:10.1186/ar3931.