Qi Gong

A holistic mind-body practice that combines gentle, flowing movement with mental focus, breathing and relaxation. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy and martial arts, qi gong translates literally into “life energy cultivation.”

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (a branch of the National Institutes of Health), several clinical trials have evaluated the effects of qi gong in people with various health conditions. Results of a 2012 randomized clinical trial of 100 participants suggested that practicing qi gong reduced pain and improved sleep, the ability to perform daily activities, and mental functioning in people with fibromyalgia. The researchers noted that most of these improvements were still apparent after six months.

The results of studies on the effects of qi gong on chronic neck pain have been mixed. A 2009 clinical study showed no benefit of qi gong or exercise compared with no therapy in elderly adults with, on average, a 20-year history of chronic neck pain. On the other hand, a 2011 study showed qi gong to be just as effective as exercise therapy (and both were more effective than no therapy) in relieving neck pain in middle-aged adults who had chronic neck pain for an average of three years. Research also indicates that practicing qi gong may improve mood, fatigue, quality of life, and inflammation in adults with various types of cancer compared with those receiving standard care.

Want to learn about additional mind-body therapies for pain? Read “The Power of Tai Chi to Relieve Pain,” “How to Thrive With Mind-Body Techniques,” and “Alternative Pain Therapies.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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